The Russian pilot who survived Tuesday after ejecting from the fighter jet shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border said he was not issued any warnings by Turkey. He also said there was “no way” the jet could have violated Turkish airspace, according to the BBC.
Cpt. Konstantin Murakhtin was rescued after a 12-hour operation by Russian special forces, government officials said. His plane was shot down Tuesday, amid Turkish complaints that Russian warplanes were repeatedly violating its airspace.
A co-pilot was believed to have been killed by rebel gunfire as he parachuted from the burning plane. The pilot spoke from Russia's Hmeymim airbase in Syria, where he was taken after being rescued.
— Cagil M. Kasapoglu (@CagilKasapoglu) November 25, 2015
Murakhtin’s account seemed to contradict starkly with Turkey’s relaying of events. Turkey said its fighter jets followed the Russian warplane for about 5 minutes, issuing 10 warnings before making the call to shoot it down.
Turkish officials have defended the action, as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan affirmed his country’s right to protect its borders. He said Wednesday that he did not wish to see tensions escalate further.
The downing of the Russian plane has led to heightened tensions between Turkey and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the incident was a “stab in the back” and said there would be consequences.
NATO members, including the U.S., have backed Turkey’s account, but have called for de-escalation. Turkey is also a NATO member.
— SaadAbedine (@SaadAbedine) November 25, 2015
The U.S., Turkey and other NATO members have generally found themselves on the opposite side of the Syrian conflict as Russia. Although Russia is also fighting the Islamic State group, Moscow has sought to bolster embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, targeting rebels fighting Assad, including some backed by the West.
Russia said Turkey’s downing of the plane indicated that the country was supporting ISIS – although ISIS does not operate in the area where the Russian plane was flying. In response, Erdogan charged Russia with propping up Assad, a regime he said was responsible for terrorism against the Syrian people.
Some 250,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict, and about half of the country’s 22 million people have been displaced. Around 2 million refugees are living in Turkey.