President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday evening that Russia had given prior information to the United States of the flight path of the plane downed by Turkey on the Syrian border.
“The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes’ flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time,” Putin said at a joint press conference with French counterpart Francois Hollande in the Kremlin.
Putin on Thursday dismissed as “rubbish” Turkey’s claim that it would not have shot down the jet if it had known it was Russian.
“They [our planes] have identification signs and these are well visible,” Putin said. “Instead of […] ensuring this never happens again, we are hearing unintelligible explanations and statements that there is nothing to apologise about.”
Putin has also accused Turkey of buying oil from the Islamic State jihadist group, whose financing heavily relies on the sale of energy resources.
Putin said there was “no doubt” that oil from “terrorist-controlled” territory in Syria was making its way across the border into Turkey.”We see from the sky where these vehicles [carrying oil] are going,” Putin said. “They are going to Turkey day and night.”
“These barrels are not only carrying oil but also the blood of our citizens because with this money terrorists buy weapons and ammunition and then organise bloody attacks,” he added.
Ahead of the Hollande talks, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traded barbs, with the Russian leader saying he was waiting for an apology and Erdogan ruling out any such move.
The public recriminations came as Russia prepared to impose a swathe of punishing economic sanctions against Turkey, including abandoning a flagship pipeline project and a $20 billion nuclear power deal.
A Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber as it carried out a mission against rebel fighters near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday morning. Turkey claims the Russian aircraft violated its airspace, while Russian officials say the shooting down happened over Syrian territory.
The encounter resulted in the deaths of a Russian pilot and a marine rescuer, prompting the Russian president to accuse Ankara of “acting as ‘accomplices of terrorists,” trading with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). He also accused the Turkish president of presiding over the “Islamisation” of the country.
Mr Erdogan fired back on Thursday, calling on Mr Putin to “prove” his claims and again refusing to publicly apologise for the shoot down.
“Shame on you. Those who claim we buy oil from Daesh are obliged to prove it. If not, you are a slanderer,” Mr Erdogan said, using the Arabic acronym for Isil.
In a speech to local officials at his controversial and expensive presidential palace, Mr Erdogan insisted Turkey has always fought against Islamist extremists.
“Our country’s stance against Daesh has been clear since the very beginning. There is no question mark here. Nobody has the right to dispute our country’s fight against Daesh or to incriminate us.”
Ankara has insisted it will not apologise for Tuesday’s incident because it was acting correctly.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s recently appointed foreign minister, said the country would not apologise “on an occasion that we are right”, but revealed he had said “sorry” to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who cancelled a visit to Istanbul on Tuesday, a day before he was due to arrive.