Body of pilot shot down by Turkey to return to Russia

Anti-Turkey protests outside the Turkish embassy in Moscow. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Anti-Turkey protests outside the Turkish embassy in Moscow. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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The Turkish prime minister said yesterday that Turkey has taken delivery of the body of a Russian pilot who was killed after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane.

Ahmet Davutoglu says the pilot’s body was brought to the border province of Hatay “through Turkey’s initiatives” early yesterday morning and will be flown back to Russia. He said the local Orthodox church in Hatay performed religious rites for the pilot.

Turkey shot down the plane on Tuesday after it entered its airspace from Syria, ignoring several warnings.

The two pilots ejected from the plane but were shot at by Syrian rebels on the ground. One of the pilots, Lt Col Oleg Peshkov, died.

Turkey’s action drew strong reaction from Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for sanctions against Turkey on Saturday.

The decree, published on the Kremlin’s website, came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had voiced regret over the incident, saying his country was “truly saddened” by the event and wished it had not occurred.

It includes a ban on some goods and forbids extensions of labour contracts for Turks working in Russia as of 1 January.

It does not specify what goods are to be banned or give other details, but it also calls for ending chartered flights from Russia to Turkey and for Russian tourism companies to stop selling holiday packages that would include a stay in Turkey.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had earlier in the week ordered his cabinet to develop a list of goods to be sanctioned.

Putin’s decree also calls for the end of visa-free travel between Russia and Turkey and orders the tightening of control over Turkish air carriers in Russia “for security reasons.” The decree was issued “to protect Russian citizens from crimes,” a Kremlin statement said.

Erdogan’s expression of regret on Saturday was the first since Tuesday’s incident in which Turkish F-16 jets shot down the Russian jet on grounds that it had violated Turkey’s airspace despite repeated warnings to change course. It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane and drew a harsh response from Moscow.

“We are truly saddened by this incident,” Erdogan said. “We wish it hadn’t happened as such, but unfortunately such a thing has happened. I hope that something like this doesn’t occur again.”

Addressing supporters in the western city of Balikesir, Erdogan said neither country should allow the incident to escalate and take a destructive form that would lead to “saddening consequences.”

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