We have the body of Russian pilot ‘and we will see what...

We have the body of Russian pilot ‘and we will see what to do with it’, say rebels

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A Russian pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey was dead upon landing, a spokesman for the rebel group that captured him has claimed.

UPDATE (3.36pm): A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman later said that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cancelled a planned trip to Turkey in the wake of the incident.

The meeting between Mr Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Mr Lavrov was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying that Mr Putin “directly said that (the downing) cannot but affect Russian-Turkish relations. In this regard, I decided to cancel the meeting, which was planned for tomorrow”.

UPDATE (1.42pm): A spokesman for the Syrian rebel group that captured the pilot said rebels are conducting search operations in the area to find the second crew member.

Jahed Ahmad, of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, a group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, said his group would consider exchanging the body of the Russian pilot they are holding with prisoners held by the Syrian government.

Referring to the Russian pilot, Mr Ahmad said: “This is the body of a Russian member of the military who was killing Syrian people.”

“We have the body and we will see what to do with it.”

UPDATE (1.37pm): Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey will not hesitate to take “all kinds of measures” to protect the country’s security, calling it Turkey’s “national duty”.

He stressed that the action did not amount to an aggression against any foreign territory.

Mr Davutoglu also called on the international community to work towards “extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria”.

UPDATE (1.16pm): Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned that the incident would have “significant consequences” for its relations with Turkey.

Speaking at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, he said the Russian SU-24 jet was shot by a missile from a Turkish jet over Syria about one kilometre (just over half a mile) away from the Turkish border, which he described as a “stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices”.

He also criticised Turkey for turning to Nato to discuss the incident instead of first explaining to Russia what happened.

The rebel group released a video showing gunmen standing around a blond pilot who had bruises on his face and was immobile.

Jahed Ahmad, of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, said the plane’s two Russian crew members tried to land in their parachutes in Syrian government-held areas after they ejected, but came under fire from members of his group.

He added that rebels shot one of the pilots, who landed dead on the ground. The fate of the second pilot was not immediately known.

The video shows armed rebels gathered around the soldier lying on his back on the ground with bruises and blood on his face.

A voice on the video is heard saying “a Russian pilot”, while another says: “The 10th Division has captured a Russian pilot. God is greatest.”

Turkey said the plane had ignored repeated warnings, while Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies.

Video footage of the incident showed a war plane on fire before crashing on a hill and two crew members apparently parachuting.
Two Russian helicopters, flying low over the Turkmen Bayirbucak region, searched for the two pilots, Turkish news agency Dogan said.

After the incident, the Russian Defence Ministry said: “We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet.

“The Ministry of Defence would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight.”

Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it ignored several warnings.

The ministry said the pilots parachuted but added that Moscow had no further contact with them.

A Turkish military statement said the plane entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.

“On November 24, 2015 at around 9.20am, a plane whose nationality is not known violated the Turkish airspace despite several warnings (10 times within five minutes) in the area of Yayladagi, Hatary,” the military said before the plane’s nationality was confirmed.

“Two F-16 planes on aerial patrol duty in the area intervened against the plane in question in accordance with the rules of engagement at 9.24am.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday demanding that Russia cease operations in Syria targeting Turkmen villages, saying the Russian actions did not “constitute a fight against terrorism” but the bombing of civilians.

Ambassador Andrey Karlov was warned during the meeting that the Russian operations could lead to serious consequences, the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reportedly cancelled tomorrow’s scheduled trip to Turkey.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in the area that is controlled by several insurgent groups including al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the 2nd Coastal Division that consists of local Turkmen fighters.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the war plane crashed in the Turkmen Mountains region in the coastal province of Latakia.

The Turkmen Mountains region has been subjected to a government offensive in recent days under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Three Russian journalists working in Latakia province suffered minor injuries when a missile landed near their car on Monday, Russia’s defence ministry said. They were being treated in a military hospital.

Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that it said had violated Turkey’s airspace.

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