Shooting of two soldiers on Soviet border angers Turks
Istanbul — A recent border incident involving the killing of two Turkish soldiers by Soviet guards has caused tension between Turkey and the Soviet Union.
Taking the incident seriously, the Turkish government has made several diplomatic protests to the Soviet authorities.
What has particularly irritated the Turkish government is the stern attitude taken by the Soviets, who have not replied to the Turkish notes delivered in Ankara and have so far refrained from making any apology about the incident.
In the absence of any satisfactory reaction from Moscow, Turkey has taken measures to show its displeasure.
A visit by a Turkish delegation to Moscow, scheduled for Aug. 26 to negotiate the extension of the Turkish-Soviet cultural agreement, has been called off.
Foreign Ministry sources say a visit by Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen to Moscow, planned for October, will not take place unless Moscow changes its attitude on the border incident.
The Turkish press, which in recent years has refrained from making any comment that could adversely affect the friendly atmosphere between the two neighboring countries, has expressed anger and resentment at the Soviet attitude.
The Turkish newspapers have accused the Soviets of provoking tension by persistently not accepting responsibility for what they call the ''cowardly way of shooting the two Turkish soldiers in their back.''
According to the official Turkish account of last week's incident, Soviet border guards shot dead the two guards in the back at Cildir, an outpost on the Turkish-Soviet frontier. The shooting took place ostensibly because the ''two soldiers had trespassed into Soviet territory, possibly after straying into the no man's land.'' The two men had bled to death, and Soviet helicopters around at the time, reportedly did nothing to save them.
Turkish authorities denied a Tass agency report that the two soldiers, ignoring orders to stop, opened fire at Soviet guards. An autopsy of the two bodies as well as examination of their rifles showed that the two Turkish soldiers had not opened fire. Officials say that they were shot in their backs, probably while they were leaving the area, realizing that they were in the wrong place.
Officials recall that the last incident along the Turkish-Soviet border occurred in 1967 when relations between the two countries were extremely cool. But at that time the Soviet guards had only wounded two Turkish soldiers and the Soviet government had immediately reacted and apologized for the shooting.
The Turkish government's anger at the incident this time is clearly made evident by repeated official statements that are widely reflected in the local press.
The incident and the new tension between the two countries are causing widespread speculation in diplomatic circles here. The prevailing view is that the Soviet guards had orders to shoot to kill and that the Soviet authorities failed to report the incident to the Turkish authorities in time.
In fact, the Turkish were notified of the shooting four hours later. This gives way to speculation that, as a Turkish source put it, ''There might be a reason why the Russians did not want two Turkish witnesses.''
What the two Turkish patrols were watching or witnessing has also been speculated upon. Some observers believe that it might be connected with the border crossing of some Turkish terrorists.
Last week, at the trial of a group of ''dev-yol'' leftist terrorists at Erzurum, near the Soviet border, one of the militants revealed how he and 10 of his comrades managed to escape from jail and cross into Soviet Union through the same border. He told the court they were questioned by Soviet authorities and then left along the border, where they had no other choice but to return to Turkey. Once they entered Turkey they were caught by Turkish guards and sent back to prison.
Soviet diplomats here say that this shows the Soviet authorities would not grant political asylum to terrorists. They also claim that the recent border incident is the result of strict orders given to the Soviet frontier post not to allow any illegal crossings.
However, the Turks have doubts about this and question why the Soviets did not formally inform Turkey about the escape of the ''dev-yol'' terrorists to their territory and why they did not hand them over to the Turks legally. The Turks have been suspicious about the Soviet attitude toward terrorism in Turkey, particularly in view of Moscow's alleged support to leftist Turkish militant groups.
The recent border incident has increased these suspicions and distrust.