Russia will introduce a visa regime for Turkish citizens as part of a range of measures to retaliate for the Su-24 fighter jet downed by the Turkish air force on Tuesday.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, responded by saying the Kremlin was “playing with fire” if it mistreated people from his country who visited Russia.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the latest move on Friday, saying it would come into force from 1 January. Russia has also forbidden tour companies from selling packages to Turkey, advised all Russian citizens to leave the country, and promised an array of economic sanctions as well as the freezing of joint projects.
Since the plane was shot down, officials from both countries have made it clear neither side is interested in serious escalation. But neither the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, nor Erdoğan, is known for backing down from a confrontation.
Erdoğan has refused to apologise to Russia for the incident, and said his jets would act the same way again in a similar situation, while Russian officials have reacted with furious rhetoric.
Erdoğan said on Friday he had warned Putin about incursions by Russian planes at the G20 summit in Antalya this month. The Turkish president claimed Putin had told him to accept the planes “as guests”, to which he responded that Turkey could not accept uninvited guests.
“It is playing with fire to go as far as mistreating our citizens who have gone to Russia,” Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey. “We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia … We don’t want these relations to suffer harm in any way.”
He also accused Russia of backing Bashar al-Assad’s “terrorist state” in Syria. Putin, for his part, called the Turks “accomplices of terrorists” and suggested Turkish officials were profiting from oil trade with Islamic State.
Erdoğan said he hoped to speak with Putin at a forthcoming climate change summit in Paris and “bring the issue to a reasonable point”. The Kremlin said no meetings between the two leaders had been planned for Paris, confirming that Erdoğan had tried to call Putin in the aftermath of the incident but the call was not taken. A Kremlin aide said this was because Erdoğan was not ready to apologise.
Erdoğan has previously claimed Turkish jets did not know the Su-24 was a Russian jet and would have acted differently had they realised; a suggestion dismissed as implausible in Moscow.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan ( Click here to watch video ) : Had we known it was a Russia plane we may have warned it differently
The Russian defence ministry on Friday described the shoot-down as an “ambush” by Turkish jets. Turkey insists the Russian plane briefly veered into Turkish territory and was warned 10 times to divert its course; Russia says there were no warnings. A defence ministry spokesman also claimed that Turkey had offered no assistance or coordination with a rescue mission after the plane had been shot down.
The pilot died, shot from the ground as he descended in a parachute, while the navigator survived and was returned to Russia’s airbase in Syria after a long operation by Syrian special forces. A Russian marine who was part of the rescue mission also died. All three men have been honoured with military awards by Putin.
The incident has caused an outpouring of anger in Russia, prompted by hours of programming on state television about Turkey’s cynical actions and its nefarious goals in the Middle East. The Turkish embassy in Moscow has been pelted with paint, bricks and eggs, while in Simferopol, Crimea, locals burned an effigy of Erdoğan. Internet users have pledged not to travel to Turkey on holiday. Last year, 4.4 million Russians vacationed there.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the misnamed Liberal Democratic party, pointed out how easy it would be to destroy Istanbul. “You just chuck one nuclear bomb into the straits, and there’d be a huge flood. The water would rise by 10-15 metres and the whole city would disappear,” said the MP, who is known for his scandalous outbursts.
Source : The Guardian