2015 Russian Sukhoi Su-24 shootdown
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A Russian Sukhoi Su-24M
|Date||24 November 2015|
|Summary||Shootdown by Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jets
Killings by Syrian Turkmen rebels
|Crew||2 + CSAR helicopter with unknown crew|
|Fatalities||1 pilot, 1 naval infantryman (during rescue operation)|
|Survivors||1 weapon systems officer|
|Aircraft type||1 Sukhoi Su-24M
1 CSAR helicopter destroyed on ground after being apparently forced to land by damage from small arms fire while attempting a rescue mission
|Operator||Russian Air Force|
According to Turkey, the aircraft was shot down in Turkish airspace, which it violated up to a depth of 2.19 kilometres (1.36 miles) for about 17 seconds, after being warned to change its heading 10 times over a period of five minutes. The Turkish government also said that it did not know the nationality of the aircraft at the time of the shooting. The Russia Defence Ministry denied the aircraft ever left Syrian airspace, counter-claiming that Russian Ministry of Defence satellite data showed that the plane was about 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) inside Syrian airspace when it was shot down. According to unnamed United States officials, the aircraft was shot down in Syrian airspace after being in Turkish airspace for two to three seconds.
The shootdown was the first destruction of a Russian or Soviet military aircraft by a NATO member state since the 1950s.
Further information: Syrian Civil War, Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War and Spillover of the Syrian Civil WarThe Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 following an armed uprising, leading to the formation of numerous rebel forces, including foreign-backed ones, in the country. In 2012, following encouragement from Turkey, Syrian Turkmen formed their own armed brigades in opposition to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, loosely affiliated with other rebels such as the Free Syrian Army. In Latakia they formed the Jabal al-Turkman Brigade. Prior to the incident, Turkish media were "running headlines highlighting the suffering of the Turkmens, who are closely related to Anatolian Turks."
After the 2012 shootdown of a Turkish jet, Turkey changed its rules of engagement and, according to the new rules, it would consider all "elements" approaching from Syria an enemy threat and would "act accordingly."
Russia is one of several countries directly involved in the Syrian conflict. On 30 September 2015, Russia began its air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other anti-government forces.
In early October, Turkey and NATO protested against what they saw as Russia's deliberate violations of Turkish airspace.[a] The Russian Defence Ministry admitted that a Russian Su-30 aircraft had entered Turkish airspace "for a few seconds" because of bad weather, adding that measures had been taken to prevent a repeat of such incidents. From 3–15 October, five discussions between senior ranking officials from Turkey and Russia occurred concerning Turkish rules of engagement and Russian violations of Turkish airspace. On 19 November, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov and the Russian military attaché were summoned by Turkey. Russia, criticised by Turkey for having its army operate very close to the Turkish border, in an area inhabited by Syrian Turkmen, free of ISIL or other terrorist groups, was reminded that Turkey's rules of engagement were in place and it would react to any violations of its border security. Russia was also warned Turkey would not be indifferent to "attacks targeting the life security of Turkmen" in the Bayırbucak area. The preceding week Turkey had called for the U.N. Security Council to discuss attacks against Turkmens. Approximately 1,700 people had fled the area within the past three days due to battles between Syrian government forces and anti-government groups. Russia has bombed the area near the Turkish border to support the Syrian government's forces.
The attack occurred a day after Putin attended the Third GECF summit in Tehran where he discussed with Iranian leaders the need to confront terrorist groups such as ISIL.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Su-24 was downed at an altitude of 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) within one kilometre of the Turkish border while returning to the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. Russia has steadfastly maintained that "throughout its flight, the aircraft remained exclusively above Syrian territory." The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the aircraft was a Su-24 but said that it had proof the jet was within Syrian airspace.
According to the surviving Su-24 navigator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, neither of the pilots in the two Turkish F-16 jets gave them any warning before engaging. He said "it’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second...We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 metres in completely clear weather and I had total control of our flight path throughout." 
Early reports from multiple Russian news agencies indicated that the aircraft had been downed by a ground-based strike from Syrian Turkmen rebels, but the Russian Defence Ministry later confirmed the Turkish reports that the aircraft had been downed by Turkish fighter jets. CNN Türk reported that the Turkish military had released a graphic of the Russian aircraft's flight pattern, which shows it crossing the southern tip of Hatay Province before being shot down and crashing near Turkmen Mountain.
CasualtiesBoth pilots ejected after the aircraft was hit. It was reported that one of the pilots was captured by Turkmen Syrian opposition fighters in Syria. Initially, the deputy commander of a Turkmen rebel brigade in Syria, later identified as Alparslan Çelik, a Turkish citizen and Grey Wolves member, claimed his forces shot dead the two pilots as they descended with parachutes, while a Turkish official believed that both were alive. Later, Russian officials[who?] confirmed that one pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Anatolyevich Peshkov was shot dead, while the other pilot, who was the navigator, was rescued. The fighters who were videotaping the pilot's body shouted things such as "Allah Akbar" and that the pilot should have been burned when captured[not in citation given] and a video allegedly showing his body was circulated. The shooting of an ejecting aircraft pilot is in contravention of the Geneva Convention's Article 42, which states: "No person parachuting from an aircraft in distress shall be made the object of attack during his descent." RT journalist Roman Kosarev, who himself was under attack on the same day in Latakia, was the first to interview the rescued pilot.
The killed pilot of Su-24, Oleg Peshkov, was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation, while surviving weapon systems officer, Konstantin Murakhtin, and the killed rescuer, Alexander Pozynych, received the Order of Courage.
Search and rescueThe Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency showed the initial video footage of the aircraft crashing and the two pilots parachuting down. Russian helicopters reportedly conducted low-altitude combat search and rescue flights in the area to look for the pilot. Two Mil Mi-8 helicopters were sent on the mission to find and recover the pilots from the crash site. One of these helicopters was damaged by the small-arms fire of Syrian Turkmen Brigade militants, resulting in the death of a naval infantryman, and was forced to make an emergency landing. The Free Syrian Army's First Coastal Brigade claimed that they subsequently destroyed the abandoned helicopter using a U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW missile.
Involved partiesA few hours following the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke from Sochi, where he was meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, warning of a "stab in the back by terrorist accomplices," that "we will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today" and that Russia–Turkey relations would be affected. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was due to visit Turkey the next day to "smooth relations," while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was due to visit Russia later in the year. Lavrov canceled his trip after the incident. Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy said: "We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed." Protesters pelted the Turkish embassy in Russia with eggs, whereafter police cleared the area.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the shooting was a "new crime" that will be added to the record of insurgent groups fighting in the country and of those countries that were financing and arming them; he mentioned Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as the strongest such backers.
Erdogan warned everyone to "respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders" and said that the reason why worse incidents have not taken place in the past regarding Syria is because of the, "cool-headedness of Turkey." He also stressed that Turkey's actions were fully in line with the new rules of engagement adopted after Syria shot down a Turkish jet in 2012. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu offered condolences and said the Turkish pilots did not know it was a Russian plane. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu defended the action saying Turkey has the right "to take all kinds of measures" against border violations as a "national duty," but that it did not amount to an aggression against any foreign territory and the country called for NATO to hold an extraordinary meeting later in the day. He further called for working towards "extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria." Davutoğlu also said: "No one can legitimize attacks on Turkmens in Syria using the pretext of fighting the Islamic State." Writing on Twitter, Turkey's Ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kilic, indicated: "Understand this: Turkey is a country whose warnings should be taken seriously and listened to. Don't test Turkey's patience. Try to win its friendship." According to the BBC, Turkey's permanent representative Halit Cevik in a letter to the UN Security Council claimed that the two aircraft had approached Turkish airspace and disregarded ten warnings that were issued over the space of five minutes via an "emergency" channel to change direction, instead entering Turkish airspace by 2.19 km (1.36 miles) and 1.85 km (1.15 miles).
The MICEX and RTS Index and Borsa Istanbul fell over 1%, while the Turkish lira also dropped following news of the shootdown. Dozens of protesters were reported outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul demonstrating against Russian military operations in the Turkmen-populated areas of Syria.
OthersPresident of the European Council Donald Tusk called upon Turkey and Russia to stay "cool headed and calm"; he was supported by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, following her meeting with Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, who urged both parties to avoid escalation. Stoltenberg backed Turkey's assessment of the engagement and said: "We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey", and called for both sides to de-escalate the situation. President of the United States Barack Obama assured his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a phone call, of support for his country's right to defend its sovereignty and that it was important to find out exactly what had happened and to take measures to "discourage any kind of escalation". French President François Hollande called the plane incident "a serious one" and said that Turkey is providing information to NATO "so that we can find what really happened." He also called for the prevention of any escalation of the situation. Czech President Miloš Zeman said that Turkey's action was "a too radical move which only increases the tension in the region," while Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek called for better co-ordination among those fighting in the region. German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called Turkish actions unpredictable: “This incident shows for the first time that we are dealing with an actor who is unpredictable according to statements from various parts of the region – that is not Russia, that is Turkey." Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for "prudence and common sense" in response to the incident and that Syria peace talks in Vienna should not be derailed. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the incident was potentially serious but also said that Turkey was an important ally of the United Kingdom and European Union. When asked by British opposition Labour MP Dennis Skinner whether Turkey could still be considered an ally, Hammond said that Turkey is an important NATO ally as it "holds the key to a number of important questions both in relation to the battle against ISIL but also in relation to the migration challenge that Europe faces, and it will remain a very important partner for this country and for the European Union."
Broader European stock markets also fell as a result of the shooting.
AftermathThe Russian Defence Ministry broke off military contact with the Turkish Armed Forces. The Russian military also said that future airstrikes in Syria would see fighters escorting Russian bombers. According to the Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu, Russia will deploy S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, where the Russian Aerospace Forces group is stationed.
On 25 November, Russia started bombarding rebels – including Turkmen insurgents – in Latakia, ignoring demands made by Turkey over the past week to end its military operations close to the Turkish border. This bombardment was done via missiles fired from Russian warships, artillery and aircraft. An aid convoy reported to have been carrying construction material was bombed by airstrikes in the northwestern town of Azaz, near the Turkish border, controlled by the armed Syrian opposition. At least seven truck drivers died and ten people were injured.
The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey spoke by phone for an hour on 25 November, and both governments stated that day that they would not initiate a war as a result of the shootdown incident. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists that day that his country would "seriously reevaluate" its relationship with Turkey, however.
On 26 November, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia would draft broad economic sanctions against Turkey that would affect their joint investment projects.
- 2015 PKK rebellion
- List of accidents and incidents involving military aircraft (2010–present)
- Post–World War II air-to-air combat losses
- On 15 October, Turkish jets shot down a drone operating in Turkish airspace. United States defense officials said that the drone was Russian, however, Russian defense officials on their Facebook page stated that none of their aircraft were shot down. On 17 October, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey would shoot down aircraft violating its air space.
Disregarding these warning, both aircraft, at an altitude of 19.000 feet [5,800 m], violated Turkish national airspace to a depth of 1,36 miles [2.52 km] and 1,15 miles [2.13 km] in length for 17 seconds from 0.24'.05 local time.