. Russia’s violation of Turkish airspace over the weekend
“does not look like an accident”, Nato has said.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had not
provided “any real explanation” of the violation, which
“lasted for a long time.”
Russia says Saturday’s incursion was brief and due to bad
weather. It is examining claims of another violation.
Turkey’s army also says an unidentified fighter jet locked
its radar on to eight of its jets on Monday.
It echoes a similar incident on Sunday, when an unidentified
Mig-29 – which analysts say may have been Syrian –
locked its radar onto Turkish jets for more than five minutes
over the Turkish-Syrian border.
Missile systems inside Syria were also locked on to Turkish
planes for more than four minutes on Monday, the Turkish
Analysis: Syria’s military might – Jonathan Marcus,
BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent
The incidents involving Mig-29 aircraft “illuminating”
Turkish F-16 jets with their radars – a preliminary to
actually engaging them – suggests a new assertiveness on
the part of the Syrian air force.
Russia, as far as we know, has not deployed Mig-29s as
part of its air expeditionary force to Syria. It has though
supplied its Syrian counterpart with the aircraft in the past.
Some – at least – of Syria’s Mig-29s are still operational;
indeed, as a fighter rather than a ground attack aircraft, they
have flown a lot less during Syria’s protracted civil war.
Syria and Turkey have a difficult history of incidents over
recent years. In 2012, Syrian missiles shot down a Turkish
Phantom jet off the Mediterranean coast.
Last year, Turkish jets shot down a Syrian Mig-23 that had
strayed into Turkish airspace along with a Syrian helicopter
earlier this year. So the tensions are real and the possibility
of a deadly encounter ever present.
Syria still maintains reasonably sophisticated surface-to-
air missile defences, but many bases have been overrun and
it is far from an integrated national system.
A high-stakes gamble : Can Russia and the US avoid
Where key countries stand: Who is backing whom
Why? What? How? Five things you need to know about
What can Russia’s air force do? The US-led coalition has
failed to destroy IS. Can Russia do any better?
Russia began its air campaign in Syria last Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Syrian state TV said Russia had hit parts of
Palmyra, which is held by Islamic State (IS) militants and is
renowned for its nearby ancient ruins, but Russia denied the
The Russian defence ministry said it flew 20 sorties on
Tuesday, striking 12 IS targets, including including
command centres, training camps and bases.
Russia says it is targeting “all terrorists” in co-ordination
with Syria’s government, but Nato and allied states have
expressed concern that it is concentrating its attacks on
rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, some
of them backed by the West, and not jihadist groups like IS.
The latest Russian strikes also targeted positions in the
north-western province of Idlib, where rebel groups have
made significant gains against government forces in recent
Turkey has twice summoned the Russian ambassador –
once over the first violation, which occurred on Saturday,
and once over a second violation that Turkey says took
place on Sunday.
In the latest reaction:
Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov said
he would be happy to invite Turkish officials to Moscow
to discuss the crisis
He also said he was working on a “document of co-
operation in aviation operations” to hand to the US
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “an
attack on Turkey means an attack on Nato”
He added: “If Russia loses a friend like Turkey, with
whom it has been co-operating on many issues, it will
lose a lot, and it should know that”
Mr Stoltenberg called the Russian violation “unacceptable”,
saying Nato was taking it “very seriously” and warning that
“incidents, accidents, may create dangerous situations”
There had been “a substantial military build-up” by Russia
in Syria, including ground troops and naval capabilities, he
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that civilians
have been killed by Russian strikes in the past week, but
evidence on the ground has indicated otherwise.
A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against
IS in Syria and Iraq since September last year, which rights
groups say have also caused civilian deaths.
Syria’s conflict, which began in 2011, has left more than
250,000 dead and about half the country’s population
Turkish reaction: Mark Lowen, BBC News, Istanbul
Turkey’s government has been enraged by these Russian
incursions – and by Moscow’s military intervention in Syria
as a whole.
First, any violation of Turkish airspace could lead to the
object being shot down, which would dramatically escalate
events. Second, there could be a mid-air collision close to
Turkey’s borders, as this is the first time since World War
Two that Russian and American combat planes have been in
the skies over Syria. But third, Russia’s air strikes are the
final nail in the coffin for Turkey’s “buffer zone” idea in
Ankara has continually pushed for this, ostensibly to allow
some of the two million Syrians in Turkey to return – though
critics say it’s designed to break up areas controlled by
Syrian Kurds, who Turkey see as a threat.
There was already opposition in the West to the plan. But
Russia’s air strikes will make it almost impossible to