On Tuesday, Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador in Ankara over images showing a Russian serviceman holding a man-portable surface-to-air missile launcher onboard the Russian Navy's Caesar Kunikov large class landing ship as it passed through the Bosporus near Istanbul. Turkish officials claimed that Russia had violated the 1936 Montreux Convention regarding the passage of naval warships through the Turkish Straits.
Commenting on Ankara's decision, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stressed that the Russian vessel did not violate any of the provisions of the Montreux Convention, or the relevant Turkish instructions. Moreover, Ankara, according to Zakharova, had failed to specify the nature of the alleged violation, instead making abstract references to the "context and philosophy" of international laws.
The Admiral began by pointing to the provisions of the international maritime law, which states that "so long as a ship, by its presence, is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state, passage shall be considered innocent."
Accordingly, Erturk asked: "Was the Russian ship performing military exercises in the Straits? No. Were its guns and artillery emplacements aimed at the city during its passage through the Straits? No. There weren't even any technical staff next to its weaponry."
Furthermore, the admiral emphasized that the security measures taken by the Russian commander during the ship's passage are by no means out of the ordinary, given the security situation in Turkey today, and the risks of terrorist attacks.
"Moscow wasn't the only one to warn of this threat," Erturk noted. "Turkey's ally, the US, for example, has warned its citizens about the serious threat of terrorist attacks by jihadist groups to major Turkish cities. The same goes for Germany. Now imagine yourself in the place of the captain of a ship which is passing through the Straits under these difficult conditions."
In fact, Erturk noted, compared with the way US Navy ships behave in the Straits, the Russian ship's action seems like a mere trifle.
"Do you know how US military ships pass through the Straits? Compared with the precautions that they take, the actions of the Russian ships seem like a trifle which is not even worth paying any attention to. In order to protect their vessel from possible terrorist attack, the entire crew of the US ship is put on high alert, all its onboard control systems are activated, snipers and sailors armed with Stingers are put on the deck. After entering the Bosporus, American ships are cordoned off by steel nets, so that no one can even get close to them."