Turkey shot down a Russian military plane near the country’s Syrian border, reports said early Tuesday. Turkey said the jet violated airspace—a claim that Russia denied.
Before the plane was shot down, Turkey had warned it about air space violations, Turkish officials told Reuters.
Russia’s ministry of defense said the plane was a Sukhoi Su-24 belonging to the Russian Air Force, and that it crashed in Syrian territory after it was downed by fire from the ground. The pilots managed to eject but their fate was unknown, the ministry has said, adding that the circumstances of the crash were being investigated.
Russia has been launching airstrikes in Syria in support of the Syrian army and Bashar al-Assad’s regime since late September. The jet crash occurred on Tuesday as Syrian rebels claimed on social media that they took control of Jabal Zahiya—the area where the plane came down—from their rival, the Syrian army, after heavy battles.
Reports about the downed jet were picked up by Russian news outlets, generating a commotion on social media. Russia’s popular social media network Vkontakte, Twitter and Facebook exploded with posts about the incident as hundreds of users started threatening that if the downed plane was indeed Russian, Turkey will pay the price for “declaring war” on Russia. Some users threatened to boycott Russian tourism in Turkey, one of the most popular vacation destination among Russians.
Video footage posted to Twitter by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency showed a plane going down in a mountainous area in northern Syria, where both Russia and Syria have conducted airstrikes, according to Reuters.
According to reports, Syrian rebels celebrated the downing of the jet.Twitter accounts affiliated with Syrian rebel groups including Jaish al-Fatah claimed that rebel fighters captured one of the Russian pilots and were searching for a second early on Tuesday. Citing local sources, CNN Turk reported that Turkmen forces in Syria had captured an airman. A video posted to Facebook claimed to show one of the Russian pilots being taken by rebels, but a Vocativ analysis found that the video was originally posted to social media two years ago.