The warplane’s two pilots were able to eject themselves from the aircraft before it crashed. They came under fire by a Syrian rebel group, and both were killed as they parachuted the ground, Reuters reported.
The downing of the warcraft will likely further escalate tensions between Turkey and Russia. Moscow’s recent intervention in Syria has aggravated Ankara; Russian air strikes have targeted Turkish-backed rebel groups who are fighting against the Assad government, which Turkey opposes, and Russian warplanes in Turkish skies at least twice last month without permission.
NATO has called an emergency meeting, requested by Turkey. “The aim of this extraordinary NAC meeting is for Turkey to inform allies about the downing of a Russian airplane,” a NATO spokesperson told the AP.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has canceled a planned visit to Turkey on Wednesday. Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to the offices of Turkey’s foreign ministry, according to Russian news agency Sputnik.
Reuters reports that Syrian fighters forced a Russian helicopter to make an emergency landing in Syria’s Latakia province on Tuesday, and then destroyed it with an anti-tank missile, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The rebel group released a video showing the helicopter go up in flames.
In his remarks Tuesday, Putin mentioned a deconfliction agreement Moscow signed with Washington after Russian forces began bombing extremists in Syria last month in order to avoid dangerous clashes in a shared airspace.
“Taking into account that we signed an agreement on deconflicting with the U.S., and as we know Turkey was among the ones that has joined the U.S. coalition,” he said, referring to the U.S.-led mission of several nations that carries out near daily strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Turkey joined in the effort in late August.
President Obama said Tuesday at a press conference with French President Francois Hollande that the incident “points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations” in Syria, which have focused on rebel groups battling Syrian military forces, and not on the Islamic State, the group that the Russians said prompted them to intervene.
“Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and airspace,” Obama said. “I think it is very important for us to right now make sure that both the Russians and the Turks are talking to each other, and find out exactly what happened and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation.”