|A footage of the Russian warplane hit by Turkish Armed Forces|
over Syrian border
)(Image: Ahram Online)
Turkish warplanes F-16 have shot down Russian military aircraft Su-24 on the border with Syria early in the morning on Tuesday, 24 November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement regarding the incident and called it a "stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of the terrorists", claiming that Russian aircraft was hit by air-to-air missile. Russian officials also claim that the aircraft was flying over the Syrian territory carrying out the aerial strikes against the ISIS bases located in the Syrian Province of Latakia, on the North of the country, where the militants arriving from Russian Northern Caucasus are reportedly based.
Turkish officials on the contrary stated that Russian aircraft was downed by Turkish military forces because it violated Turkish air space. Turkish F-16 warplanes took off to the air on Tuesday morning when the Russian military aircraft violated Turkish airspace. Russian aircraft was allegedly warned by the Turkish side 10 times that it violated Turkish airspace, and then the plane was hit. There are still some speculations whether Russian warplane was hit by the air-to-air missile or by the Turkish ground forces.
The fate of the crew of the Russian jet is still unknown. It is known only that the pilots ejected from the falling airplane, as the eyewitnesses reported seeing two pilots with the parachutes. One of the pilots was confirmed dead by the local fighters, the fate of the second pilot is still unknown. Both of them fell in the mountainous area of Latakia Province in Syria, where the fierce clashes between the rebels and pro-Assad forces continued on Tuesday as well.
It is the first time Russian military aircraft has crashed over Syria since Russia has launched its massive military operation in Syria at the end of September this year, claiming that it targets only ISIS forces, but in reality targeting mostly the areas controlled by the rebels, opposing Bashar Al-Assad, and the affecting civilian population.
Turkey is a member of NATO military alliance, so the fact that Russian aircraft was hit by a NATO member state make the situation extremely tense and could possibly lead to confrontation, according to some experts.
NATO in its turn is expected to hold an emergency meeting regarding the latest incident with downing the Russian warplane. NATO authorities also stated that they follow "closely" this situation.