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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Jets In Syria Reportedly Armed With Air-To-Air Missiles, Turkey Warns That Risks Remain
6 years
Russian Air Force Chief Vows Those Who Planned Su-24 Downing Will 'Suffer Just Punishment'
Last week, Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su-24 tactical bomber over Syria after it reportedly entered Turkish airspace. While the details of the incident are in dispute, the heated rhetoric continues to increase in temperature.

The Russian state-operated propaganda network RT is carrying a statement from Russian Air Force spokesperson Igor Klimov stating that Russian jets in Syria are, supposedly for the first time, equipped with air-to-air missiles -- a clear threat to Turkish aircraft.

RT reports:

“Today, Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers have made their first sortie equipped not only with high explosive aviation bombs and hollow charge bombs, but also with short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles," Klimov said.

"The planes are equipped with missiles for defensive purposes," he added.

The missiles have target-seeking devices and are “capable of hitting air targets within a 60km radius,” he said.

Video released via RT shows the Russian Su-34s carrying the  missiles, identified as Vympel R-27s by one Syria watcher:

The R-27, however, is capable of hitting targets in excess of 80 kilometers away, with some variants capable of reaching targets 130 kilometers away. We're not sure how to reconcile this against Klimov's claims.

The other air-to-air missiles we can see in the footage are R-73 short-range heat seekers. 

Russia, then, is not backing down.

Neither is Turkey. Today Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that Turkey would not apologize. Interestingly, however, he also suggested that the risk for more incidents like this one would continue until Russia and the United States worked together to bomb ISIS. Reuters reports:

"No country should ask us to apologize," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters following a meeting with NATO's secretary general at the alliance headquarters in Brussels.

"The protection of our land borders, our airspace, is not only a right, it is a duty," he said. "We apologize for committing mistakes, not for doing our duty."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Nov. 26 he is waiting for an apology after Turkey's air force shot down the Su-24 fighter jet along the Turkey-Syria border.

Following the meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in which he won the alliance's firm support for the right to self-defense, Davutoglu also warned that such incidents continued to be a risk as long as Russia and the U.S-led coalition bombing Islamic State in Syria worked separately.

"If there are two coalitions functioning in the same airspace against ISIL, these types of incidents will be difficult to prevent," Davutoglu said, referring to Islamic State militants.

This statement is interesting since it's not clear if closer partnership is possible. At the moment, Russia is primarily bombing non-ISIS rebels which the US and its allies, including Turkey, have worked to arm and train. US generals have also raised concerns about Russia's standards for "collateral damage," and Russian actions have underscored these concerns by targeting hospitals and NGOs.

-- James Miller