Russia's Vladimir Putin brands Turkey 'accomplices of terrorists' after jet is shot down
Nato in crisis as Russian leader warns Turkey of ‘serious consequences’
Nato was plunged into crisis yesterday after Turkey became the first alliance member to shoot down a Russian military plane in more than half a century.
President Vladimir Putin branded Turkey "accomplices of terrorists" and warned of "serious consequences" after the Turkish military downed a Russian Su-24 fighter jet accused of violating its air space during an operation in northern Syria.
Both the United States and Nato urged calm last night after a war of words erupted between Turkey and Russia, who are on opposing sides of Syria's growing conflict.
Russia summoned the Turkish military attache in Moscow and Ankara called in Moscow's charge d'affaires. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled a trip to Turkey planned for today.
Speaking in Washington as Nato convened an emergency meeting in Brussels, US President Barack Obama said that Turkey "has a right to defend its territory and its airspace" but urged both sides to be cool-headed.
"My top priority is going to be to ensure that this does not escalate," Mr Obama said at a White House news conference alongside France's president Francois Hollande.
The Nato chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance stood in solidarity with Turkey, but added: "Diplomacy and de-escalation are important to resolve this situation."
Ankara and Moscow gave conflicting accounts of the sequence that led to the first acknowledged downing of a Russian jet by a Nato member since the Korean War in the 1950s.
Turkey said it issued 10 warnings in a five-minute period to two Russian Su-24 aircraft at about 9.20am local time. It claimed one left Turkish airspace over the southern province of Hatay but the second did not respond, prompting Turkish F-16 jets to fire air-to-air missiles.
Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country had the right "to take all kinds of measures" against violations of its borders, adding that it was its "national duty" to act against security threats.
Mr Putin said the plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace and landed 4km from the Turkish border, adding it was "obvious" the craft posed no threat.
The Russian president said the pilots had simply been carrying out their mission of fighting Isis inside Syria and described the Turkish attack as a "stab in the back".
The US military backed up Turkey's claim that it issued 10 warnings with no response, but a spokesman said that it needed "a little time" to confirm whether the Russian jet had crossed the border into Turkish airspace. Nato last night appeared to back Turkey's account.
A video released by Turkey's Haberturk news agency showed the moment the jet was shot down. The plane could be seen bursting into flames before plunging into a forested mountain.
Further footage showed two pilots parachuting out of the plane, but their fate last night remained unclear. A Turkish official said last night that the two pilots were alive and that Turkey was seeking to secure their safety.
Russia's military said that a helicopter sent to search for the pilots was attacked by rebel fire and one serviceman was killed. The rest of the search-and-rescue crew were evacuated and returned to a Russian air base in Syria.