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OME, November 26. /TASS/. Growing tensions around Syria and discord among states fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group are playing into the hands of the United States, Giulietto Chiesa, a well-known Italian journalist, politician and former member of the European Parliament, told TASS on Wednesday night.
"Turkey downed the Russian warplane with NATO’s acquiescence and at the behest of the United States in a bid to stop Russia’s actions in Syria where thanks to the Russian military about two thirds of the Islamic State army have been exterminated in just one month," he said.
In his words, evidence of the surviving pilot of the downed Russian Su-24 bomber left no doubts "the Turks had waited for the right opportunity."
According to the Italian journalist, discord is in the interests of the United States. "Due to various reasons, the international coalition [against the Islamic State] is a mockery. As a matter of fact, each of its members pursues its own interests. And Europe is paying the price for spreading terrorism, since it is in the interests of the United States to keep its European partners in a state of terror," Chiesa said.
The Russian Su-24M all-weather bomber (NATO reporting name: Fencer) was on anti-terrorism mission in Syria on Tuesday morning, when it was shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet. Ankara claims it downed the Russian warplane after it had violated Turkey’s airspace, while the Russian Defence Ministry says the bomber was in the airspace over Syria at the time of the attack.
Both pilots of the downed warplane ejected safely after they were hit by an air-to-air missile, but the commander was killed in a militants’ gunfire from the ground as he was parachuting.
Russia’s two Mi-8 helicopters (NATO reporting name: Hip) were engaged in the pilots’ search and rescue operation, which reportedly lasted for some 12 hours.
One of the helicopters dispatched for the rescue mission came under fire and was subsequently forced to an emergency landing after sustaining damages.
One Russian contract serviceman - a marine, was killed during the emergency landing. The rest of the servicemen on board of the helicopter were safely evacuated. The downed Mi-8 helicopter was lately destroyed by mortar fire from the territory under control of the militants.
Following the incident with the downing of the Su-24M bomber on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the attack on the combat aircraft would entail "serious consequences" for the Russian-Turkish relations. He said Turkey’ attack on the Russian plane, which was on the anti-terrorism mission in Syria and posed no threat to Turkey, was "a stab in the back" of Russia.
Russia’s aerospace forces launched pinpoint strikes against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra targets in Syria on September 30 after the Federation Council upper parliament house unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request for the use of the armed forces against terrorists in SYria. The Russian air group in Syria comprises more than 50 warplanes and helicopters, including Su-34 and Su-24M bombers, Su-25 attack aircraft, Su-30SM fighters and Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters. Air strikes are delivered at military hardware, communications centres, transport vehicles, munitions depots and other terrorist infrastructure facilities. The military operation is conducted at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russia has repeatedly said it does not plan to take part in any ground operations in Syria.