Media claims concerning Russia’s involvement in the downing of a Turkish combat jet by Syrian air defense in June are utter nonsense, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel has claimed it obtained top-secret documents allegedly implicating the Russian military in helping the Syrian air defense to shoot down a Turkish Air Force RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.
Al Arabiya claimed that the classified documents had been obtained thanks to members of the Syrian opposition and verified and authenticated by the channel’s experts.
The Russian foreign ministry stressed that deliberately spreading lies has become common practice among some Arab media outlets covering the Syrian conflict.
“Without in any way attempting to influence the editorial policy of these media outlets, we would like to recommend that the authors of anti-Russian fabrications and those who commissioned them spend more time considering, if not issues of morality, then at least their professional credibility,” the ministry concluded.
A Turkish Air Force reconnaissance aircraft RF-4E took off from the Erkhach Air Base in Turkey’s southeastern Malatya Province on June 22, and disappeared from radar screens half an hour later, while in Mediterranean Sea airspace on the western border of Syria and Turkey’s Hatay province.
Syria said it downed the Turkish aircraft after it unlawfully entered the country’s airspace. Turkey, in turn, insisted the plane was shot down in international airspace and then its debris fell into Syrian territorial waters.
Ankara initially vowed a harsh response to Syrian actions, but later limited its reaction to sending military reinforcements to the common border with its former ally.
Since it began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011, the Syrian conflict has escalated into a full-scale civil war that has claimed up to 20,000 lives, according to estimates by various Syrian opposition groups.
The West and some Arab countries are pushing for Assad’s ouster while Russia and China are keen to prevent outside interference in Syria, saying that the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday reiterated that the conflicting sides in Syria must first stop violence and maintain a ceasefire, as first steps in resolving the ongoing conflict in the country.