Russia planes ‘safe’ after Turkey downs aircraft

The Turkish military said it had downed an ‘air vehicle’ of unknown origin which had violated its air space near Syria

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The Turkish military on Friday said it had downed an “air vehicle” of unknown origin which had violated its air space close to the Syrian border with a U.S. official suspecting it was of Russian origin.

The army said that the craft had been warned three times by Turkish planes but had maintained course. It was then “downed by fire from our aircraft on patrol, according to the rules of engagement.”

The statement did not say if the downed aircraft was manned or a drone. It warned the air force would “decisively” implement Turkey’s rules of engagement.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official told Reuters that Washington suspected it was a Russian drone, but said the information was still preliminary and declined to give any more details.

Russian reaction

However, the Russian defence ministry said on Friday all its planes in Syria had safely returned to base and all its drones were operating “as planned” after Turkish warplanes shot down a drone near the Syrian border, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

“All the Russian planes in Syria have returned to the Hmeimim air base after completing their tasks. Russian unmanned aerial vehicles monitoring the situation on the territory of Syria and carrying out air reconnaissance are working as normal,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.

On Friday, Russia said it has agreed all technical questions for Syria flight safety with the United States after Turkey downing the plane.

Turkey's NTV television, without citing its sources, said the object was a drone, and it had fallen three kilometers (1.85 miles) inside Turkish territory.

Television pictures showed the military examining the crash site. The location was not specified.

Turkey had earlier this month bitterly complained about two violations of its air space by Russian warplanes operating in Syria.

Russia’s air strikes in Syria mean that Russian and NATO planes are now flying combat missions in the same air space for the first time since World War Two, heightening concern that the Cold War enemies could fire on each other.

The Russian air force officially informed the Turkish military on Thursday about the violations by Russian jets earlier this month, and about steps it would take to prevent a repetition.

Turkey has also reported unidentified aircraft and Syria-based missile air defence systems harassing its warplanes several times in recent months.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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