Turkey Insists Russian Jet Was In Its Airspace When It Was Shot Down
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Russian warplanes are reported to be bombing rebel-held areas in northern Syria, near where Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet yesterday. Rebel groups say they're being targeted by bombers and cruise missiles fired from Russian warships in the Mediterranean. The operation comes as Russian officials keep up tough rhetoric against Turkey and the NATO alliance. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us from Moscow. Corey, what is the latest from the Russian leadership?
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Well, the talk right now is pretty tough. But it also seems to be offering some room for an eventual reconciliation. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, just gave a news conference where he said Russia's not planning to go to war against Turkey. He did say that Russia has serious doubts that the downing of its plane was unintentional. And he said it looks to Russia like a planned provocation. But of course, Turkey never said the downing of this plane was accidental or unintentional. So it almost sounds like wishful thinking on Lavrov's part. He also complained that NATO statements didn't express regret or condolences for the incident, but he said were aimed at covering up what the Turkish Air Force did.
WERTHEIMER: What about President Putin? He had some criticism for Turkish President Erdogan earlier today.
FLINTOFF: Well, yes, he did. He said that Erdogan has deliberately Islam-icized his country during his years in power. So Putin seems to be explicitly linking the Turkish leader to Islamist radicals. And he did the same thing yesterday when he called the Turks accomplices to the terrorists. Putin took some - sorry - Putin took some concrete steps today as well. He ordered a very powerful advanced anti-aircraft system to be deployed at the Russian base in Syria. It's one that could strike Turkish airplanes if Russia felt threatened by them.
WERTHEIMER: The Russians have announced that one of the pilots of the downed plane has been safely recovered. You know any more about that?
FLINTOFF: Well, President Putin and Russia's defense minister said that one pilot was recovered after a 12-hour search mission. It was a costly mission for the Russian military because one Russian marine was killed when the rebels hit one of the search helicopters with a missile. Russia has already announced that medals will be awarded to the surviving pilot and given posthumously to the marine and the pilot who were killed yesterday.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Corey Flintoff, reporting from Moscow. Corey, thank you so much.
FLINTOFF: Thank you, Linda.
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