“There were provocateurs there, but they were not Turks,” Putin said, refuting earlier reports saying the attacks on the Russian airbase were carried out by Turkoman units backed by Ankara. “We know who they are. We know whom and how much they paid for these provocations,” Putin said, without naming the organizers of the attacks.
Russian military sites in Syria were targeted in two major attacks in the past two weeks, one on New Year’s Eve and another on January 6. The first assault, reportedly carried out by an infiltration squad armed with mortars, resulted in two Russian servicemen being killed and damage to warplanes at Khmeimim Airbase. The second involved 13 drones armed with bomblets, which were all either shot down or forced to land via means of electronic warfare by Russian forces.
According to the head of state, the attacks on Khmeimim Airbase were “well-prepared.”
We know when and where those unmanned aerial vehicles were handed over and how many there were,” he said.
“Those aircraft were only camouflaged – I want to emphasize this – to look like handicraft production. In fact, it is quite obvious that there were elements of high-tech nature there,” Putin said.
Before his Thursday meeting with Russian media chiefs, Putin held a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which the Khmeimim attacks were discussed. During the conversation, Putin and Erdogan agreed to “intensify the coordination of efforts by the military and special services of the two countries in order to effectively combat terrorist groups in Syria.”
Relations between Moscow and Ankara have gone through a rough patch after the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian Su-24 bomber, which was involved in anti-terrorist operations in Syria, in November 2014. One Russian pilot was killed in the incident. Turkey said the jet had violated its airspace, but Russia denies the claim.