Putin dispatches warship to the Mediterranean as Moscow expert reveals that war is probably likely after Turkey shoots down Russian warplane
- Russia warns of ‘serious consequences’ after Nato country downs Russian military jet for first time since 1953
- Two pilots were reportedly shot dead by Syrian rebels as they parachuted from burning Sukhoi Su-24 warplane
- Third Russian said to have died when rescue helicopter was hit with anti-tank missile by another rebel group
- Russia denied plane had been in Turkish airspace but Nato secretary-general says assessment showed it had
- A warship has been deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to destroy potential threats to Russian forces in Syria
- Britain has declared military back-up is on standby to support Turkey in any revenge attack by Putin’s forces
A ‘monstrous’ new crisis has begun after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane, sparking fears of a war.
Vladimir Putin has accused the Turks of a ‘stab in the back’, branding them ‘accomplices of terrorists’.
Russia warned the incident – the first time a Nato country has downed a Russian military jet since 1953 – would have ‘serious consequences’. And a leading Moscow military analyst said war was ‘most likely’.
Putin has broken off any military contact with Turkey in the fight against ISIS and is deploying a warship, with an air defence system, to the Mediterranean Sea. The cruiser will destroy ‘any targets representing a potential danger’ to Russian forces in Syria.
Its defence ministry also said that Russian bombers carrying out airstrikes in Syria will now be escorted by jet fighters.
Britain has already declared that military back-up is on standby to support Turkey in any revenge attack by Putin’s forces. President Barack Obama also pledged America’s support for Turkey following a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Two Russian pilots were shot dead by Syrian rebels as they parachuted from their burning warplane, it was claimed yesterday.
A third was killed during a mission to rescue the pair as another rebel group shot a helicopter with an anti-tank missile.
Disturbing footage shows a dead pilot covered in blood on the ground as anti-government fighters gather chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is great’.
Another video appeared to show forces shooting at the pilots with machine guns after they had ejected from the Sukhoi Su-24, which had been blasted by two Turkish F-16 jets for violating the country’s airspace. Gunfire can be heard as one of the rebels cries: ‘Don’t shoot, let’s capture them as hostages.’
The rebels – ethnic Turks backed by Turkey and fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been supported by Russia – said the pilots were killed as they parachuted over north-west Syria.
Last night Russia confirmed the death of only one of the pilots and the crew member killed during the rescue mission. Footage also emerged of rebels firing the anti-tank missile at one of the two helicopters sent to rescue the pilots.
The US-trained Free Syrian Army’s First Coastal Division brought down the Russian rescue helicopter on Turkmen Mountain. A video showed a soldier dressed in military fatigues firing a missile, before saying: ‘Allahu Akbar.’
The helicopter, in dense woodland, can then be seen burning in the background. A Russian military spokesman said it was one of two helicopters taking part in the operation. The rest of the crew was taken to the air base used by Russia in Syria.
The area where the Russian warplane went down is mainly populated by Turkmen – Syrian citizens but ethnic Turks – and is the focus of a Syrian government offensive.
Russia denied the plane had been inside Turkish airspace, but Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said an assessment showed it had.
Turkey said the plane entered its airspace for 17 seconds, despite repeated warnings. It crashed in Syria, 2.5 miles from the border.
As Britain scrambled to respond, Whitehall sources said up to 12 Typhoon warplanes – designed for air-to-air combat – were on stand-by if Turkey requested assistance defending against Russian incursions.
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