Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was burned in effigy Friday during a protest as tensions continue to mount between Ankara and Moscow, AFP reported. Anti-Turkey rallies were held in Moscow and Crimea with shouts of “down with ISIS [the Islamic State group]” as Erdogan again warned the Kremlin over its actions in the region and Moscow backed away from the idea of a grand coalition to fight ISIS.
“It is playing with fire to go as far as mistreating our citizens who have gone to Russia,” Erdogan said Friday, commenting on reports that Turkish businessmen had been detained in Russia. “We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia ... We don’t want these relations to suffer harm in any way.”
The protests in Russia come after Turkey downed a Russian aircraft near the Syrian border Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the downing a “stab in the back.” Turkish officials claimed the aircraft had entered their airspace while Russian officials maintain that the aircraft stayed in Syrian airspace.
Russia began airstrikes in Syria at the end of September under the pretext of fighting ISIS, however Western leaders have said that Russia has also targeted opposition groups who pose the biggest threat to longtime Russian ally Syrian President Bashar Assad. Following the downing of the aircraft, Moscow claimed the moment was not right for forming a coalition to fight ISIS.
“At the moment, unfortunately, our partners are not ready to work as one coalition,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s personal spokesman, the Washington Post reported.
The remarks come after Putin met with French President François Hollande and said Moscow was ready to work with the West to combat ISIS. Both France and Russia have suffered attacks at the hands of ISIS with 130 people killed in attacks in Paris earlier in November and 224 peopled killed with the downing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268 in October over Egypt.
Moscow said Friday it would cancel its visa-free travel for Turkish tourists starting Jan. 1 and has also threatened further economic retaliation. Russian social media was full of vitriol after the downing of the aircraft with one Twitter image saying, “Have you purchased a Turkish product? You’ve sponsored ISIS.”
— Zed Ned (@Zed_Ned) November 27, 2015
The protests in Russia Friday targeted Erdogan with an inflatable doll of his likeness delivered in a coffin to the Turkish embassy in Moscow. Two of the organizers of the protests were identified as municipal lawmakers by Russian authorities.
Both Putin and Erdogan will be attending the Paris climate talks next week. It remains unclear if the two leaders will meet with Putin demanding an apology from Erdogan over the aircraft and Turkey insisting Russia should apologize for violating its airspace.