After a Russian jet was shot down near the border between Turkey and Syria on Tuesday, one United States official said the U.S. believes the jet was shot down inside Syrian airspace.
An anonymous U.S. official told Reuters that the U.S. “believes that the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was hit inside Syrian airspace after a brief incursion into Turkish airspace.”
The official claimed that the conclusion was reached “based on detection of the heat signature of the jet.”
The incident has led to conflicting accounts from Turkey and Russia. While Turkey claimed two Russian jets flew more than a mile into Turkish airspace for 17 seconds after being warned 10 times in five minutes to change their direction, Russia claimed that the jets never left Syrian airspace.
In response, Russian President Putin called the shooting a “stab in the back,” and alleged that Turkey directly supports terrorist groups like ISIS through illegal oil sales.
“Our military men are fighting terrorism, sacrificing their own lives, but today’s loss is a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism,” Putin said.
The navigator of the Russian SU-24 that was shot down, Konstantin Murakhtin, was rescued, and told Russia’s Rossiya 1 channel that the jets received no warning.
Murakhtin claimed he did not enter Turkey’s airspace, and received no visual or radio warning before his plane was fired upon.
“It’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second,” Murakhtin said. “We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters in completely clear weather, and I had total control of our flight path throughout.”
During a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande, President Obama urged communication between Russia and Turkey, and said, “Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.”
Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), called for an emergency council meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. Members present said that while “none of the 28 NATO envoys defended Russia’s actions,” many of them “expressed concern that Turkey did not escort the Russian warplane out of its airspace.”