Russia strikes back: Putin's bombers hit Turkish border crossing in revenge for downed jet
RUSSIA has launched a series of deadly strikes against Syrian rebel-held border crossings with Turkey, in a "revenge" attack for the downing of one if its jets yesterday morning.
26 November, 2015
Syrian rebels reported that Russian forces were pounding areas in Syria's Latakia province, unleashing a wave of airstrikes on mountains near where the Su-24 warplane was shot down.
Jahed Ahmad, a spokesman for a militia brigade in the region, said the Russians were taking "revenge" for the plane's downing by Turkey, a key backer of the rebels in the area.
Speaking from inside Syria today, he claimed Russian jets were providing cover for advancing Syrian ground forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies.
But Turkey's state-run news agency and Syrian activists claimed the airstrikes had hit an aid convoy, killing seven and wounding 10.
Kremlin officials described the incident as a "planned provocation" and have vowed a tough response.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey.”
Speaking on a trip to the Ural mountains city of Nizhny Tagil, Putin added: “I hope that this, along with other measures that we are taking, will be enough to ensure [the safety] of our flights.”
The S-400 missile systems will be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in Latakia, about 30 miles south of the border with Turkey.
A Turkish army truck loaded with a self-propelled gun heading to the Syrian border
A Turkmen soldier whose militia group is under attack from Russia
The systems have a range up to 250 miles and are capable of targeting Turkish jets with deadly precision.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also confirmed the Russian missile cruiser Moskva has moved closer to shore to protect aircraft flying missions near Syria's border with Turkey, using its long-range Fort air defence system.
At a meeting with military officials, he said: "It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft."
He added that from now on all Russian bombers would be escorted by fighters on their combat missions in Syria.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was forced to fly missions close to the Turkish border because that was where the militants tended to be located.
Russian sorties are expected to continue in the area as Moscow seeks to warn Ankara off a second missile attack.
Syrian jets have struck the area before, but if confirmed to have been carried out by Russia, it would be one of Moscow's closest air strikes to Turkish soil, targeting a humanitarian corridor into rebel-held Syria and a lifeline for ordinary Syrians crossing to Turkey.
Turkmen soldiers patrol with motorcycles
President Vladimir Putin says Russian air strikes in Syria would last as long as was necessary
Speaking after the dramatic downing of the Russian jet, the surviving navigator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, denied that the aircraft had veered into Turkey's airspace "even for a single second".
He also rejected the Turkey's claim that it had issued repeated warnings to the Russian crew before shooting down the plane.
Mr Murakhtin said there were "no warnings whatsoever," adding that he wants to keep flying missions from the base "to pay them back for my commander".