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Middle East

Russia says Turkish jet provoked Syrian military: report

MOSCOW: A Turkish fighter jet shot down by Syria last month asked for trouble when it entered Syrian airspace, the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Russian source as saying on Tuesday.

"The actions of the Turkish plane were no doubt a provocation. Otherwise how would you explain the fact that the fighter jet flew two, albeit short, sorties in the Syrian airspace?"

"The crew had to have only one motive for such actions -- to test the combat readiness of the Syrian air defense systems and it indeed tested them. And also to conduct a reconnaissance of the strength and capabilities of the Syrian air defense systems in the coastal direction," it said.

The source quoted by Interfax did not make clear where the information came from.

"In any case, the crew of the Turkish Phantom have tried hard to literally ask for the Syrian air defenses' fire," the source was quoted as saying.

Syria's President Bashar Assad -- whose government is locked in a deadly conflict with the opposition -- said this week he regretted that his country's defense forces shot down Turkey's F-4 Phantom jet but insisted the plane was in Syrian airspace.

He said the soldier who shot down the plane had no radar and could not know to which country the plane belonged.

Turkey viewed the loss of its fighter jet as a hostile act and has taken steps to fortify its border with Syria.

 

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