MOSCOW, June 27 (UPI) — The president of Turkey apologized for the downing of a Russian warplane over the Turkey-Syria border in November, the Kremlin said Monday.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Russian President Vladimir Putin received a letter from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which Erdogan expressed “sympathy and deep condolences” for the death of the plane’s pilot. The letter also stated Turkey had no “deliberate plan to shoot down a Russian plane” and noted Russia is “a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations.”
The plane, an Su-24 fighter plane, crashed in the mountains of Syria’s Latakia region after it was shot down by a Turkish air force plane chasing it. The pilot, Oleg Peshkov, was killed by militants on the ground after he safely ejected, and the plane’s injured navigator was taken to Russia’s Syrian airbase by Syrian government troops.
Turkey said the plane was warned 10 times by radio that it was in Turkish airspace; Russia said the plane stayed in Syrian airspace and the pilot heard no warnings.
Tensions between Turkey and Russia increased after the incident, with Russia angered by the lack of an apology. Russia responded by suspending package tours to Turkey and imposing trade sanctions.
The Kremlin News Service said Erdogan’s letter included condolences to the family of the pilot.
The Turkish government has not yet commented on the letter, or on Peskov’s statement.