Turkey hands over body of Russian pilot to Russia

Turkey hands over body of Russian pilot to Russia

Turkey hands over body of Russian pilot to Russia

Photos of Lt.Col. Oleg Peshkov, left, and sailor Alexander Pozynich are placed at a monument to Soviet Officers with flowers and a toy jet made of paper outside Russian Army General Staff headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. AP Photo

Turkey has initiated the process to hand over the body of a Russian pilot to Moscow after his jet was shot down by Turkey, a day before a United Nations climate conference starts in Paris that could bring a “saddened” Turkish president and his Russian counterpart together. 

In a press briefing held at Ankara’s airport prior to his departure for a EU-Turkey Summit in Brussels on Nov. 29, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the body of Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov, who died after his plane was downed by Turkish F-16s on Nov. 24 when it reportedly breached Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, had been taken by Turkey and would be sent to Russia on its request.

“The Russian pilot, who lost his life during the airspace violation was delivered to our border yesterday night at 1:45 a.m.,” said Davutoğlu, adding that Orthodox clerics in the southern province of Hatay had performed funeral rites over the pilot’s body. 

“The body will be handed to Russia on their request after our initiatives,” he added. 

Peshkov was reportedly killed by Turkmen forces as he descended to ground in a parachute.

The other pilot in the downed Russian warplane, Konstantin Murakhtin, was rescued by Syrian special forces units and brought to a Russian base in Syria after the incident.

The coffin of Peshkov was flown to Ankara, where, according to Russia’s RIA news agency, it was met at an airfield by Moscow’s ambassador and military attaché, Reuters reported. 

Erdoğan ‘saddened’ by incident

A day before, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated his call to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a face-to-face meeting in Paris on the sidelines of the U.N. Global Climate Summit to discuss and resolve an ongoing bilateral crisis, saying Turkey was sorry about the incident. 

 “We feel really saddened about this incident. We would not like such a thing to happen … but unfortunately it did. I hope such a thing will not happen again,” Erdoğan said Nov. 28 in a statement during a visit to the northwestern province of Balıkesir.

“What we tell Russia is, ‘Let’s talk about this issue within its boundaries and let’s settle it. Let’s not make others happy by hurting our entire relationship. I think the U.N. Global Climate Change Summit to be held in Paris on Monday could be an opportunity to restore our relations,” he said. 

This was Erdoğan’s second call to Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in Paris after the downing of the Russian jet. 

Initially, Erdoğan had expressed his willingness to meet Putin on Nov. 27 in the northern province of Bayburt. An aide to Putin, however, said the Russian president refused to contact Erdoğan because Ankara does not want to apologize.

“We see Turkey’s unwillingness to simply apologize for the incident with the plane,” Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s aide, told reporters when asked why Putin had refused to talk with Erdoğan. 

On the same day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that the Turkish president had requested a meeting with Putin in Paris on Nov. 30. 

“A proposal from the Turkish side about a meeting at the level of heads of state has been delivered to the president,” Reuters reported Peskov as saying in a conference call.  “That’s all I can say,” Peskov added.

Russia targets Turkish citizens

Meanwhile, the Turkish embassy in Moscow issued a call on Nov. 28 for Russian authorities to cease targeting Turkish citizens living in Russia.

According to the statement, it has been receiving a number of calls from Turkish citizens in various parts of Russia complaining of harassment by Russian authorities.

“After we acquired the necessary details about the incidents, we demanded an explanation from Russian authorities about the complaints and asked them to halt the pressure put on Turkish citizens,” read the statement.

Eyewitnesses told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that Russian police officers raided a university dormitory in Saratov, in the early hours of Nov. 28 and only checked the passports of Turkish students. Eyewitnesses also said certain students were detained after the checks.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry asked its citizens early on Nov. 28 to delay non-urgent and non-significant trips to Russia amid strained relations between the two countries.