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Tuesday, November 24

Russian pilots who bailed from targeted jet could still be alive

A "Syrian Turkmen brigade"claims to have shot dead both pilots as they were parachuting through the air, which of course is a violation of the Geneva Convention, which somehow I don't think the Turkmen can read, but from this RT report, filed Nov. 25 local time (00:55 , updated 02:01):
... reports have emerged that the two pilots may be still alive. Ankara is working to secure their release from Syrian rebels, a Turkish government official told Reuters.

"Our units, who received the information that the two pilots were alive, are working to get them from opposition rebels safely," the official said.
This is the passage from the Reuters report, Update 10, that RT seems to be quoting (RT I really wish you'd add links when you're referring to another news report and Reuters will you kindly add timestamps to your updates):
A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said his men shot both pilots dead as they came down. The Russian military confirmed one pilot had been shot dead from the ground and another soldier died during a rescue operation.
A senior Turkish official said at least one of the pilots could still be alive. "It's not a fact but a possibility. We're trying to verify the information and taking all necessary steps to facilitate their return," the official said.
So RT -- or senior Turkish officials -- might be clutching at a straw.  

From an earlier report today at Sputnik, Ankara is also claiming they didn't know the jet was Russian. 

Regarding a Russian who was reportedly killed by the same Turkmen during an attempted rescue mission of the two jet pilots. From NBC News today 5:12 PM EST:
A Russian pilot was killed Tuesday while parachuting from his downed plane and so was a Marine dispatched to save him.
The doomed pilot was one of two Russians who ejected from their aircraft after it was struck by a Turkish missile, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said in a statement.
The Russian Marine, whose name also was not released, was aboard one of two Mi-8 helicopters Moscow dispatched to a contested area along the Turkish/Syrian border to find the downed pilots, Rudskoy said in a statement.
"In the course of the operation, one of helicopters was damaged by small arms fire and performed an emergency landing in the neutral area," his statement read. "One contract serviceman — member of Marine Troops — was killed."
Rudskoy said one of the choppers "was destroyed by mortar fire conducted from the territory controlled by illegal armed groups."
The slain Marine and the rest of his crew were evacuated to the Hmeymim airbase, Rudskoy said. He did not address the fate of the second pilot.
Already furious with the Turks for shooting down their warplane, Rudskoy closed by declaring that "contacts with Turkey will be terminated at the military level."
Russia will also beef-up defenses at their Latakia air base in Syria and deploy the guided missile cruiser Moskva off the Syrian coast, Rudskoy vowed.
"We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed," Rudskoy said during the briefing.
[...]
All that says nothing about President Erdogan's flip-flop, although Sputnik has plenty to say about it:

Erdogan in 2012: Brief Airspace Violations Can't Be Pretext for Attack (00:55 25.11.2015 - updated 02:01 25.11.2015):

Turkey has cited airspace violations as its justification for shooting down a Russian Su-24 bomber on Tuesday. But only three years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan specifically stated that such actions should "never be a pretext for an attack."

In response to the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish fighter jets on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that the military’s actions were justified.

"We did not want this situation to happen, but everybody has to respect Turkey’s right to defend its borders," he told reporters, adding that the military’s actions were "fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement."

Yet, three years ago, Erdogan had somewhat different thoughts on the matter.

In 2012, Ankara accused Syria of shooting down a Turkish F-4 Phantom. That plane crash-landed in the Mediterranean after veering into Syrian airspace. In response, an outraged Erdogan lambasted the Syrian military for acting in haste.

"A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack," he told Parliament at the time.

The Russian Ministry of Defense released video earlier on Tuesday which proves the Russian aircraft never entered Turkish airspace. But even if we take Ankara at its word, a leaked letter to the United Nations Security Council reveals that Turkish authorities justified their actions based on a 17-second airspace violation.

Surely Erdogan would consider 17 seconds "short-term."

The Turkish justification also appears hypocritical given the fact that Turkey’s own military planes have violated Greek airspace repeatedly over the last few years. Less than two weeks ago, Greek defense officials reported eight Turkish fighter jets entering Greek airspace, conducting a total of 19 transgressions.

These incidents have increased dramatically since 2013, and in 2014, alone, Turkey entered Greek airspace a total of 1,017 times.

The Russian Su-24M Fencer bomber was shot down Tuesday morning while conducting legitimate operations over Syria, where Moscow has been targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group.

The two pilots ejected, and while the fate of one remains unclear, Russian officials confirm that the other was killed by ground fire from local militant groups.  [This confirmation might have been premature, from the latest reporting at RT, above.]

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a "stab in the back, carried out against us by accomplices of terrorists."

[END REPORT]

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