Turkey hands over Russian pilot’s body after shooting down

Turkish and Russian army officers salute as a funeral car with the coffin of Russian pilot Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov leaves after a ceremony at the Gulhane Medical Academy in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. Early Sunday, Turkey had taken delivery of the body of Lt. Col Peshkov who was killed after Turkish F-16's shot down a Russian warplane last Tuesday near the Turkish/Syrian border. (Turkish Military via AP)

Russian pilot Lt Col Oleg Peshkov was killed moments after the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey.  The body of the pilot killed when Turkey shot down his Russian Su-24 on the Syrian border was taken to Turkey late on Saturday to be handed over to Russia, the Turkish Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the body of the pilot, who Russia identified as Lt Col Oleg Peskhov, had been received by Turkish authorities at the country’s border with Syria, but did not give any more details.

He said a Russian official would soon travel to the province of Hatay with a Turkish military official and receive the body. Davutoglu added that the pilot’s body has been treated in accordance with Orthodox Christian tradition.

Relations between Turkey and Russia have sharply deteriorated since last Tuesday after a Russian plane was shot down while flying over Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkey said the plane violated Turkish airspace, which Russia denies. Russia has responded by imposing economic sanctions and revoking a visa-free agreement, while Turkey has sought to cool tensions.

Rebels from Syria’s ethnic Turkmen community opened fire on Lt Col Peshkov and his co-pilot as they tried to parachute into government-held territory. The rebels said Peshkov had died by the time he reached the ground. The co-pilot, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, survived and was rescued from rebel-held territory in Syria in a special forces operation.

Capt Murakhtin said he wanted to go back to duty and stay in Syria, saying “someone has to pay” for his colleague’s death. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to apologise to Russia over the incident.

On Friday, he accused Moscow of “playing with fire” in its Syria operations. But on Saturday, he said he was “saddened” by the downing of the plane.

Russia and Turkey have accused each other of aiding Islamic State, but both say they are battling the militants who have taken swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

However, Russia sides with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has been accused by the West of using its bombing campaign to help him instead of targeting Islamic State. Turkey meanwhile wants Assad gone and has been supporting rebels fighting him.

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