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BRUSSELS, December 1. /TASS/. NATO has provided "political coverage" to Ankara in the incident with Turkey’s downing a Russian warplane in Syria and so, the alliance shares the responsibility for it, Russia’s Permanent Representative at NATO Alexander Grushko said on Tuesday, commenting of the statement of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Russia and NATO had discussed the incident with the Russian Su-24 bomber.
"I had a conversation with NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow about the incident with the Su-24. He did not confine himself to the aspects that had been mentioned by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. I informed him of Russia’s position on the incident and cited the military and political factors that testify to the fact that it was a deliberate attack on the Russian plane in Syria’s airspace," Grushko said.
"I stressed that NATO, which gave no principled assessment of this illegal act, as a matter of fact, politically covered up Ankara as its member and that is why it shares responsibility for the incident," he said. "Once again, we see that political considerations are getting the upper hand over objectivity and mere common sense."
"I would like to note that this is not the first time when NATO uses double standards in the interests of Atlantic solidarity. I will give an example. The NATO Council statement of October 5 on the so-called violations of the Turkish airspace by Russian planes refers to NATO’s practice, in line with which a Turkish fighter approached the so-called violator, identified it and accompanied to the point of leaving the country’s airspace," he said. "In the case of the November 24 incident [when the Russian Su-24 bomber was downed by a Turkish fighter jet], even if we take for granted the absolutely ungrounded version of violation of Turkey’s airspace, these NATO’s practices were not observed, since, according to Ankara, the pilots did not even know the identity of the violator plane."
"NATO prefers not to go in detail what was the reason for Turkey’s decision to launch a missile to down a plane which was flying in Syria’s airspace and which posed no threat to Turkey," he said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said his deputy had had a meeting with Russia’s NATO envoy Alexander Grushko over the incident with the Russian plane to call for de-escalation of tension and point to the necessity of direct contacts between Moscow and Ankara to clarify the situation and think how to avoid such incidents in future.
Stoltenberg said earlier in a statement after NATO emergency meeting over the incident that the alliance stands "in solidarity with Turkey" and supports "the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey."
"Diplomacy and de-escalation are important to resolve this situation," he said.
A Russian Su-24M bomber was gunned down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet in the morning of Tuesday, November 24. Turkish defence officials claimed the Russian warplane had intruded into Turkish airspace in the area of the Syrian-Turkish land-surface border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Su-24M was flying over the Syrian territory and there was now intrusion in Turkish airspace.
The crew - Lt Col Oleg Peshkov and Capt Konstantin Murakhtin managed to eject themselves from the aircraft but Lt Col Peshkov was killed in midair by gunfire opened by militants from among the ethnic Turkomans.
Capt Murakhtin was rescued and taken to the Russian airbase at Hmeymin, Latakia province.
The search and rescue operation involved two Mi-8 helicopters. One of them was damaged by gunfire and made a forced landing. A contract marine serviceman - Alexander Pozynich - died in the incident while the rest of the search party was evacuated to a safe place.
The damaged helicopter was destroyed later by mortar fire from a land area controlled by militants.
The Russian defense ministry and later the surviving Su-24M pilot refuted Ankara’s allegations that the Russian plane had been given warnings before the attack.
Russian President Putin has warned that the attack on the bomber will have "serious consequences" for the Russian-Turkish relations. According to Putin, the Turkish Air Force’s attack on the Russian combat plane that took part in the operation against terrorists in Syria and posed no threat to Turkey is a "stab in Russia’s back.".