Turkey recovers body of downed Russian jet pilot from Syrian rebels

Published 29.11.2015 20:51
Updated 29.11.2015 20:56

Turkey recovered the body of a Russian pilot from northern Syria and presented it to Russian diplomats on Sunday, five days after shooting down a Russian warplane for violating its airspace.

A coffin carrying Oleg Peshkov arrived by ambulance on the tarmac of Hatay Airport in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, a Reuters photographer said.

It was flown to the capital Ankara, where according to Russia's RIA news agency it was met at an airfield by Moscow's ambassador and military attache. The Russian embassy declined to comment and Turkish officials did not immediately disclose when the body would be repatriated to Russia.

The shooting down of the Russian fighter jet by NATO-member Turkey, the first known incident of its kind since the Cold War, has stunned cooperation on fighting against Deash since the militant group claimed responsibility for mass killings in Paris and blowing up a Russian airliner.

Moscow has responded towards Ankara with fury, with President Vladimir Putin signing a decree on Saturday imposing punitive economic sanctions against Turkey. Details of Turkish goods that will be banned and other measures under the decree are expected to be announced in coming days.

Turkey released visual data and audio showing that Peshkov's plane was in its air space and had ignored repeated warnings when it was shot down. Russia says it was flying over Syria and was struck unprovoked.

The navigator of the two-seat jet survived but another Russian service member was killed by Deash militants while he was rescuing him from northern Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Sunday that Peshkov's body had arrived in Turkey overnight, but gave no further details of how it was recovered or brought across the border.

Turkey is part of a coalition of countries led by the United States that have been bombing Daesh positions in both Syria and Iraq, while also calling for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Russia, which supports Assad, launched its own separate bombing campaign against Assad's opponents nearly two months ago. While it says it is also targeting Daesh, most of its air strikes have been against other Assad opponents, including groups actively supported by Turkey.

Davutoğlu called for more military cooperation to prevent future incidents.

"Communication and coordination in Syria operations is needed in order to prevent further incidents, because two different coalition groups are conducting operations in Syrian air space always risk leading to similar incidents," he said before getting on a plane to Brussels for a meeting on the migrant crisis with EU leaders. He also accused Russia of using anti-Daesh operations as a pretext to help Assad.

Russia has not eased its bombing campaign since Peshkov's plane was shot down on Tuesday. On Sunday air strikes believed to have been carried out by Russian jets killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more in the town of Ariha in northwest Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Sunday Moscow would not boycott international sporting events held in Turkey, but would require maximum security and would limit training trips by Russian athletes there, RIA reported.

Turkey is one of the neighbours most affected by the 4-year-old civil war in Syria, having hosted 2 million refugees while calling loudly for the downfall of Assad. It has been angered by the Russian military campaign in Syria, complaining in particular in recent weeks about Moscow's targeting of ethnic Turkmen rebels in the border area, who are close kin with Turks.

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