A Russian warship in the Aegean Sea fired a warning shot at a Turkish vessel earlier today, just a few weeks after Turkey shot down a Russian jet flying in the country’s border region in Syria. The Smetlivy, a patrol ship under the direction of Vladimir Putin, fired the warning shots at the other ship in order to avoid a collision, according to Moscow officials.
After the Russian ship fired warning shots at the Turkish boat, the country’s representative in Moscow was called to speak with Putin’s officials to discuss the matter. A statement from the Russian military leadership reportedly said that the Smetlivy tried repeatedly to alert the Turkish fishing vessel that they were in danger of a collision. When the attempts to establish radio contact proved unsuccessful, signal flares and semaphore signals were then reportedly used to alert the approaching ship to the danger.
When the Russian ship and the Turkish ship came within about 600 meters of each other, the Smetlivy was forced to fire the warnings shots to avoid a crash, according to an official statement from Vladimir Putin’s government officials. Almost immediately after the warning shots were fired from the Russian patrol boat, the Turkish fishing boat altered its course, BBC News reports.
— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) December 13, 2015
The captain of the Turkish fishing boat said that he and his crew were not immediately aware that the Russian ship had fired upon them. Muzaffer Gecici, the boat captain, maintains that he has video footage of the exchange with the Smetlivy — the recording has been turned over to coast guard officials. Gecici also claims that he did not realize the ship they were passing was a Russian vessel.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey have increased since the shooting down of the SU-24 fighter jet last month. Turkish officials have continued to defend the downing of the Russian fighter and ignored calls for a public apology by Putin. Russia also imposed economic sanctions on Turkey since the jet crash, which caused the death of the pilot and a marine reportedly deployed on a rescue mission.
Russia banned tourism in Turkey, a move which could cost Turkey millions of dollars, according to a Guardian report. Putin also suspended all military cooperation with Turkey and closed down a hotline which was created to share information about Russian airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also said that sanctions imposed against Turkey could also include putting a halt to joint economic projects, an increase in customs duties on imports, and an all-out ban on produce from the country.
While Turkish officials claim that the downed Russian jet was in its airspace when the shots were fired, Putin officials dispute the claim and insist the fighter was in Syrian airspace when it was shot out of the sky.
“We are not in favor of tension. We have always been in favor of overcoming tensions through dialogue rather than conflict,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after being alerted that Russia had fired warning shots at the Turkish fishing boat.
— The Peninsula (@PeninsulaQatar) December 13, 2015
Just one week ago, Turkish officials accused Russia of attempting to provoke tensions after several photos of a sailor, pointing a missile launcher as the combat ship floated through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, surfaced online. After the incident, the Russian ambassador was called to meet with Turkish officials and told that the shoulder-fired missile launcher photos violated international treaties and such actions should not happen again.
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[Image via Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]