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Putin: Turkey's downing of Russian jet betrayal by friend

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, take part in a press conference after their meeting in Moscow on November 26, 2015 ©AFP

Russia’s president says the Turkish Air Force’s recent shooting down of a Russian bomber over Syria’s airspace was an act of betrayal by a country Moscow considered to be its friend.

Vladimir Putin made the remarks at a joint press conference with his visiting French counterpart, Francois Hollande, at the Kremlin on Friday.

It is impossible for the Turkish Air Force not to recognize Russia’s planes, Putin said, noting that the United States knew where the aircraft was flying at the time it was brought down.

"They [our planes] have identification signs and these are well visible," the Russian president said, adding, "Instead of [...] ensuring this never happens again, we are hearing unintelligible explanations and statements that there is nothing to apologize about."

On Tuesday, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Sukhoi Su-24M, which Ankara accuses of having violated the Turkish airspace. Russia rejects that the aircraft ever entered Turkey’s skies.

An image showing a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M warplane going down in flames in Syria near the Turkish border on November 24, 2015

The aircraft’s two pilots ejected as it was going down in flames. One of the pilots was killed by militants in Syria, while the second one was picked up by the Syrian army.

Putin has demanded that Ankara apologize over the incident. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded by saying that Turkey does not owe Russia an apology over the matter.

‘Organized murder’

On Thursday, Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, addressed the incident, saying, “This was done in a most base, cowardly and treacherous fashion. Effectively, it was an organized murder."

"We qualify this as a crime, and this crime has perpetrators in the person of Turkey's political and military leadership," he stated, adding, "November 24 will forever remain in the history of the Russian-Turkish relations.”

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova has also accused Ankara of protecting the “armed thugs” who slew one of the pilots.

Franco-Russian cooperation on Syria

Addressing the conference, the French head of state said the two sides had agreed to exchange intelligence on Daesh and other militant groups in Syria to help improve the effectiveness of their aerial bombing campaigns in the Arab country.

“We will exchange information about whom to hit and whom not to hit," Hollande said.

Putin, for his part, said, "We today agreed to intensify our joint work on the anti-terrorist track, to improve the exchange of information in the fight with terrorism, establish constructive work between our military specialists."

France is part of a so-called US-led coalition that has been pounding purported Daesh targets inside Syria since last September without any authorization from Damascus or a United Nations mandate. The coalition has fallen severely short of dislodging the group.

On September 30, Russia started airstrikes of its own against Daesh, al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist groups that have been sowing fear and destruction among Syria’s civilian population.

Damascus says terrorists have begun to retreat and flee in thousands since the beginning of the Russian strikes.

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