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Russia suspends participation in BLACKSEAFOR drills after Turkey's downing of Russian jet

Russia has suspended its participation in the Black Sea Force (BLACKSEAFOR) multilateral naval drills in response to Turkey's downing of a Russian Su-24M bomber in Syria, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov told TASS on Friday.

"In accordance with the decision by the Russian Defense Ministry on terminating military contacts with Turkey, the participation of our Black Sea Fleet in the BLACKSEAFOR drills has been suspended," said Komoyedov who was previously commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

"Also, a representative of the Russian Navy in charge of coordination between the Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Navy has been recalled from Turkey," Komoyedov said. "He has returned home," he added.

Russia's military attache for defense and attache of the ground forces may also be recalled from Turkey, the Russian lawmaker said.

"These are our military diplomats who are still staying in Ankara to finally get clear explanations from the Turkish General Staff for the causes and the circumstances of the downing of the Russian bomber by the Turkish Air Force in the sky over Syria," the Russian lawmaker said.

'If they don't get these explanations and the Russian Defense Ministry considers their further stay in Turkey as inexpedient, then a decision will be made to recall these Russian military representatives from Turkey as well," Komoyedov said.

An F-16 fighter jet from the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber on Tuesday. Ankara claims the Su-24M bomber violated the Turkish air space in the area of the border with Syria.

However, Russia's Defense Ministry has said the Su-24M plane stayed exclusively over the Syrian territory and "there was no violation of the Turkish air space."

Russian President Putin has warned that the attack on the bomber will have "serious consequences" for the Russian-Turkish relations. According to Putin, the Turkish Air Force's attack on the Russian combat plane that took part in the operation against terrorists in Syria and posed no threat to Turkey is a "stab in Russia's back."

The crew of the Su-24M bomber managed to eject but one of the pilots was killed by gunfire from the ground. The second pilot was rescued and taken to the Russian air base. The rescue operation involved two Mi-8 helicopters. One of the helicopters came under fire and made a crash landing and a contract soldier was killed. The helicopter's other personnel were evacuated to a safe place. The Mi-8 helicopter damaged by gunfire was subsequently destroyed by mortar fire from the territory controlled by militants.

Russia's Defense Ministry has announced about terminating all military contacts with Turkey.

The Black Sea Force was established in 2001 to comprise Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 27Nov15]

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