Russia demands arrest of Su-24 pilot’s murderer who gave interview to Turkish media

A Russian Su-24 bomber. © Dmitriy Vinogradov
The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that Turkey brings to trial Alparslan Celik who confessed in an interview with Turkish media that he had participated in the murder of the Russian pilot of Su-24 downed by Turkish air forces in November.

“We demand that the Turkish authorities take immediate action to catch Alparslan Celik and his accomplices and charge them with criminal offence for killing a Russian pilot and taking part in hostilities as members of an illegal armed group in a foreign country,” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Zakharova also expressed surprise and indignation that Hurriyet, a major Turkish newspaper, had given floor to the “murderer and terrorist” so that he could brag about his crime and disseminate nationalist ideology, “filled with hatred towards Russia and the Russian people.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also demanded Turkey to assess actions and statements of its citizen who confessed to an international crime – murdering a foreign pilot.

“It is high time that Ankara explains its official position regarding the participation of its citizens in hostilities on the side of extremist illegal armed groups operating in a neighboring country. Or will Turkey prefer to turn a blind eye to this issue as well?” Zakharova said.

On December, 27, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet published an interview with Alparslan Celik who spoke about the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish F-16 fighter. Celik did not have any regrets – conversely, he said that the Turkmens retaliated for alleged bombings of their positions.

The Turkish authorities’ position on the downed Russian plane is also criticized by the Turkish opposition. The Republican People's Party’s head Kemal Kılıcdaroglu condemned attempts to shift the blame for the incident on supporters of Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, a popular Muslim preacher living in the US.

Earlier the pro-government newspaper Star wrote that the Russian jet had been downed by Gulen’s supporters in the Turkish air forces who wanted to put Ankara in a predicament by causing a crisis in its relations with Russia.

“What happened? They [Turkish authorities] said that they had ordered to down the plane. The agencies even contradicted each other on which one did that. Now they say they are sorry – that was the military. Even not the military now, but Gulen. Do you give any thought to what you say? How does your conscience let you play with people in such a way?” Kılıcdaroglu said in the Turkish parliament.

The Russian Su-24 bomber involved in the Russian military operation in Syria was downed by a Turkish F-16 fighter on November, 24. One of the bomber's two pilots was killed by the Turkmen militants, another one rescued.

Following the incident Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey, including banning Turkish companies from working in Russia and Russian companies to hire Turkish employees, suspending the visa-free regime as well as introducing an embargo on a number of Turkish goods.