Did Russia violate Turkey's airspace again?

Turkey's government Saturday warned Russia that it would 'endure the consequences' if Moscow continued to send jets into its airspace, while Russia denied any infringement.

Vladimir Isachenkov/AP/File
A Russian Su-24 takes off on a combat mission at Hemeimeem airbase in Syria in 2015. Turkey said Saturday that a similar Russian warplane has again violated its airspace despite several warnings – two months after Turkey's military shot down a Russian jet for crossing over its territory.

After Turkey reported a Russian warplane infringed on its airspace Friday, the republic’s president said that Moscow would “endure the consequences” in the event of continued violations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued the warning from the capital city of Ankara after the Turkish Foreign Ministry said a Russian Su-34 entered its airspace despite repeated warnings issued by air radar units.

In a Saturday press release, the ministry claimed the Russian plane continued its flight “Despite several previous explicit statements of warnings by both Turkey and NATO” and that the incident represents “yet another concrete example of Russian escalatory behavior.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense denied Turkey’s claims on Saturday, saying, “There have been no violations of Turkey’s airspace by aircraft of the Russian air group in the Syrian Arab Republic,” according to Russian News Agency TASS.

“Statements by the Turkish side of an alleged case of violation by the Russian Su-34 aircraft of airspace are unsubstantiated propaganda,” Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, said to TASS.

Despite the Russian denial, Turkey and Erdoğan treated the reports as true and warned Moscow against aggravating regional tensions further.

“We regard this infringement which came despite all our warnings in Russian and in English as an effort by Russia to escalate the crisis in the region,” Erdoğan said, according to the Associated Press. “If Russia continues the violations of Turkey's sovereign rights, it will be forced to endure the consequences."

“These irresponsible steps do not help the Russian Federation, NATO-Russia relations or regional and global peace,” he said. “On the contrary they are detrimental.”

The incident occurred little more than two months after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 jet near the country’s Syrian border. Turkey said the fighter entered its airspace despite repeated warnings, and it was subsequently shot down. Russia claimed the plane was never in violation of Turkey’s airspace. One of its two crew members was killed by Syrian rebels on the ground after ejecting from the plane, and a Russian marine died in the rescue operation to bring back the surviving officer.

In the wake of that event, Russia sent missiles to Syria and imposed economic sanctions on Ankara, heightening its tensions with Moscow.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his hope for calm after the latest episode between the two countries and pledged the organization’s support for Turkey, a NATO member, in a Saturday press release.

“I call on Russia to act responsibly and to fully respect NATO airspace,” Stoltenberg said. “Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again. I welcome the direct contacts between Ankara and Moscow, and I call for calm and de-escalation.

“NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey and supports the territorial integrity of our Ally, Turkey,” he said.

Stoltenberg also supported NATO's intentions to continue bolstering Turkey’s air defense in the wake of the November shoot down, saying that decision was made in advance of Friday’s alleged violation.

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