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turkey downs russian plane

Vladimir Putin has bitterly condemned the downing of a Russian warplane on the Turkey-Syria border.

The Russian president described it as a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”.

Turkey says its jets shot at the Russian warplane after warning that it was violating Turkish airspace. However, Moscow says it never strayed from Syrian airspace.

NATO held an extraordinary meeting at member Turkey’s request to discuss the incident.

Its Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, has said allied assessment of the incident shows that the Russia warplane did fly into Turkish airspace.

One of the two crew members who ejected from the downed plane was killed by fire from the ground, the Russian military said. The fate of the other is unclear.

A Russian soldier was killed when the helicopter he was on came under fire during a search and rescue mission, a spokesman added.

Vladimir Putin warned there would be “serious consequences” for Moscow’s relations with Turkey.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he was canceling his visit to Turkey, where he was due on November 25, over the incident.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

He also advised Russians not to visit Turkey and said the threat of terrorism there was no less than in Egypt, where a bomb attack brought down a Russian passenger plane last month.

Vladimir Putin said the Su-24 was hit by an air-to-air missile fired by a Turkish F-16 while it was flying over Syrian territory.

He said the plane had been attacked “at a height of 6,000 meters [20,000ft], 1km from the border”.

It crashed into Syrian territory 2.5 miles from the border, he added.

The plane flew over a small piece of Turkey that projects into Syria that would have taken the jet only a few moments to fly over, correspondents say.

The two crew members ejected as their burning aircraft plunged into a Syrian hillside.

Video footage has shown what appears to be the dead body of one of the flyers, surrounded by armed rebels.

Another piece of video, obtained by a Turkish news network, has shown the pilots being shot at from the ground by unidentified rebels.

Turkey has reportedly shot down a Russian warplane on the border with Syria.

According to Russia’s defense ministry, a Su-24 had crashed on Syrian territory after being hit by fire from the ground, and that its pilots had managed to eject.

However, Turkish military officials said Turkish F-16s had shot down the plane after repeatedly warning its pilots they were violating Turkish airspace.

Video showed the warplane crashing in a rebel-held area of Latakia province.

It is the first time a Russian military aircraft has crashed in Syria since Moscow launched airstrikes against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in late September.

Photo Ap

Photo Ap

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as “very serious”, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions.

The NATO military alliance, to which Turkey belongs, said it was following the situation “closely” and was in contact with the Turkish authorities.

The Russian defense ministry confirmed on November 24 that a Russian Su-24 had “crashed on Syrian territory, having been hit from the ground” while it was flying at an altitude of 6,000m [19,685ft].

“Efforts are being made to ascertain what happened to the pilots. According to preliminary reports, the pilots have managed to self-eject,” the ministry was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The ministry stressed that “throughout its flight, the aircraft remained exclusively above Syrian territory”, adding: “Objective monitoring data shows it.”

However, the Turkish military said two F-16s on patrol had fired on an unidentified aircraft at 09:24 local time after warning it 10 times over five minutes about violating Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.

It noted that the F-16s had intervened “in accordance with the rules of engagement”, which were changed after Syria shot down a Turkish plane in 2012.

According to th Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jet had crashed in the mountainous Jabal Turkmen area of Latakia, where air strikes and fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces had been reported earlier on Tuesday.

Russian military helicopters were searching for the pilots near the crash site in the predominantly Turkmen Bayir Bucak area, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV quoted an ethnic Turkmen rebel group as saying it had captured one of the Su-24’s two pilots and were “looking for the other”.

A video posted online by rebels meanwhile appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile on the ground, either badly wounded or dead.

Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only “terrorists”, but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.

Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria’s president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft.

Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

The Turkish foreign ministry also summoned the Russian ambassador last week to warn him that there would be “serious consequences” if the Russian air force did not immediately stop bombing “civilian Turkmen villages” in Bayir Bucak.