26 Nov 2015

'Turkey gave no warning,' says downed Russian pilot

7:00 am on 26 November 2015

The surviving pilot of a Russian plane shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border has said no warning was given.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber Photo: AFP

Capt Konstantin Murakhtin told Russian television there was "no way" the jet could have violated Turkish airspace, as Turkey said it did.

Russia said Capt Murakhtin was rescued in a 12-hour operation involving special forces.

Turkey insists the pilots were warned 10 times before the plane was shot down.

It is not clear what happened to the body of his co-pilot, who was killed by gunfire as he parachuted from the burning plane.

Capt Murakhtin was speaking from the Hmeymim airbase, where Russia's aircraft have been based in its Syrian campaign, and where he was taken after being rescued.

He said he knew the region he had been flying in "very well" and that the jet had not been in Turkish airspace "even for a second".

He added he wanted to go back to duty and stay at the airbase, saying "someone has to pay" for the death of the other pilot, Lt Col Oleg Peshkov.

Tensions have escalated between the two countries over the incident, and Russia has broken off military contacts with Turkey. The US, the EU and the UN have all appealed for calm.

President Putin has described the downing of the plane as a "stab in the back", and warned of serious consequences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkey was a stab in the back by "accomplices of terrorists".

Vladimir Putin said the shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkey was a stab in the back by "accomplices of terrorists". Photo: AFP

His Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the incident was a "planned provocation" but Russia did not want to wage war over the shooting, Reuters reports.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended the action, saying "everyone must respect the right of Turkey to protect its borders". He has said he does not want to escalate tensions further.

Turkey is a member of Nato. The alliance has backed Turkey's version of events, although it, too, is calling for "diplomacy and de-escalation" to resolve the situation.

Russian defence officials say the plane never entered Turkish territory, and that Turkish pilots made no attempt to communicate with the Russians before they fired.

An American military spokesman in Baghdad, Col Steve Warren, told reporters that recorded communication between Turkish and Russian pilots showed that the Turks warned the Russian plane 10 times before shooting it down.

Turkish media have shared an audio recording of what purports to be one of the warnings, with a Turkish radar station telling the jet it is approaching Turkish airspace and that it should change course.

The recording has not been confirmed as genuine by Turkish authorities.

Russia has announced fighter jets will now escort its bombers during air strikes over Syria, and Moscow is sending out its most advanced anti-aircraft missile system, the S-400.

Russia and Turkey have found themselves on opposing sides in Syria's conflict, with Russia supporting President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey is a staunch critic.

The aircraft goes down in Kizildag region of Turkey's Hatay province, close to the Syrian border, on November 24, 2015.

Russia claims the downed plane had been attacked inside Syria Photo: AFP

Russians have been advised not to visit Turkey - a popular tourist destination for Russians - and one of Russia's largest tour operators, Natali Tours, has suspended package holidays there.

There have been loud calls in Russia for economic sanctions and for all flights to Turkey to be cancelled, the BBC reports.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs