Russia has demanded explanation from Turkey over the detention of the Syrian airliner and accused Ankara of endangering the lives of Russian citizens on board.
“We are concerned that this emergency situation puts at risk the lives and safety of the passengers, who included 17 Russian citizens,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
A statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Turkish authorities had refused to grant Russian diplomatic staff and doctors, access to the Russian passengers during the eight hours that the flight was held up and failed to provide any food to them.
“The Russian side continues to insist on an explanation for the reasons of such actions by the Turkish authorities toward Russian citizens and on taking measures to preclude such incidents in the future,” the statement said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not comment on Ankara’s confiscation from the Syrian plane what Turkish media claimed to be military equipment, but a highly placed Russian official from an arms exporting agency denied any defence related cargo was on board.
“Neither weapons nor any kind of systems or parts for military equipment were on board or could have been on board,” the official told the Interfax news agency.
“If there were a need to deliver to Syria any military equipment or weapons this would be done through established procedures, not by illegal channels, especially by using a civilian airliner,” the Russian official said.
Russia has refused to halt defence cooperation with Syria, but President Vladimir Putin said in June that Moscow was not supplying to Damascus any weapons that can be used in the ongoing civil conflict.
The incident happened two days after Mr. Putin postponed his planned visit to Turkey scheduled for October 14-15.
Russian analysts said it was a provocation that could spoil relations between Moscow and Ankara.
“This can only damage our bilateral relations,” said Colonel Oleg Kulakov of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Military University. “Turkey has sent Russia a message that it is going to act tough. The ball is now in the Russian yard.”