Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane near the Syrian border, Moscow confirmed Tuesday, although it denied that the jet had crossed the border into Turkey from Syria.
The Turkish army said that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s. However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace.
“Presumably as a result of firing, an Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying.
“The plane was at an altitude of 6,000 meters. The fate of the pilots is being determined,” the statement said. “Throughout its flight the plane remained exclusively over Syrian territory.”
The ministry opined that the plane was shot down from the ground. Turkish reports said the incident happened in the border area between Turkey’s southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority.
Reports said two pilots had ejected from the plane and Turkish television pictures showed two white parachutes descending to the ground.
The CNN-Turk channel said Syrian Turkmen forces fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad captured one pilot.
Turkey’s Dogan news agency broadcasted footage of what it said was Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory in an apparent search for the lost pilots.