A letter from Turkish UN Ambassador Halit Cevik has been leaked that reveals the absolute maximum amount of time the Russian jets could have ‘violated’ Turkish airspace – a measly 17 seconds.
Moscow maintains that the jets did not violate Turkish airspace, but even if the planes did enter airspace for 17 seconds – the justification for shooting them down is now non existent following the Wikileaks publication of the document .
Turkey describes the planes in the Wikileaks document as having an “unknown nationality”.
The letter reiterates Ankara’s claim that the Russian planes were “warned 10 times during a period of five minutes via ‘emergency’ channels” to change direction.
“Disregarding these warnings, both planes, at an altitude of 19,000 feet, violated Turkish national airspace to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles in length for 17 seconds from 9:24:05 local time,” the document reveals.
Turkey’s statement: Claims Russia violated airspace for just “17 seconds” with very slow 243 miles/hour jet. pic.twitter.com/knhdy0RWIA
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 24, 2015
One of the planes then left the Turkish airspace, while “plane two was fired at while in Turkish airspace by Turkish F-16s,”Cevik allegedly wrote. This provided ground for Turkish forces to attack the Russian warplanes in accordance with the new rules of military engagement adopted in 2012 over the deterioration of the situation in Syria.
“Following the violation, plane one left Turkish national airspace. Plane two was fired at while in Turkish airspace by Turkish F-16s performing air combat patrolling in that area,” the leaked letter said. “Plane two crashed onto the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border.”
Russia denies these claims, saying its plane was downed in Syrian airspace, where Russia is conducting an air operation against Islamic State and other terrorists.
— RT (@RT_com) November 24, 2015
Russia’s General Staff said that airfield radar at the Hmeymim base showed that it was the Turkish fighter jet that actually entered Syrian airspace as it attacked the Russian bomber. Vladimir Putin called Ankara’s actions “a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists,” adding that the incident will have “severe consequences” for relations between Russia and Turkey.
There are conflicting reports on the fate of the two pilots from the downed Su-24 warplane.
The Turkmen militia, fighting the Syrian government in the area, claimed to have killed both pilots as they were parachuting from their jet after it was hit.
The Free Syrian Army affiliate, the 10th Brigade in the Coast also said that it is in possession of the corpse of one of the Russian pilots and is searching for another one.
The General Staff said that, according to preliminary data, one of the Su-24 pilots died after being fired at from the ground, while a rescue operation for his partner is underway.
However, Reuters cited a Turkish government official, who said that both pilots are alive and Ankara is working to retrieve them from the rebels.