Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at “part of the leadership in Turkey” during his annual address to the Russian parliament, accusing Ankara of having trade ties with terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq, and of being responsible for the deaths of Russian troops caused by the downing of a Russian warplane last month.
Putin stressed that Moscow’s anger over the downing of the jet is directed at particular individuals and not at the Turkish people.
“We have many friends in Turkey,” Putin said. “They should know that we do not equate them and part of the current Turkish leadership, which holds a direct responsibility for the deaths of our troops in Syria,” he said.
Putin said Russia still cannot comprehend why the downing of the plane happened. He added that the killing of Russian officers would have long-term consequences for those responsible.
“We will not forget this aid to terrorists. We have always considered betrayal the worst and most shameful act. Let those in Turkey know who shot our pilots in the back, who hypocritically tries to justify themselves and their actions and cover up the crimes of terrorists,” he said.
“We were prepared to cooperate with Turkey on most sensitive issues and go further than their allies. Allah knows why they did it. Apparently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their sanity,” Putin added.
Putin said Russia would not resort to saber-rattling to respond to the Turkish actions, but neither would it limit itself to the economic sanctions it imposed since the incident.
He stressed that the Russian operation in Syria is aimed first and foremost at preventing fighters who went to the Middle East from Russia and its neighboring countries from returning home and bringing with them the threat of terrorist attacks to Russian soil.
“They are getting money, weapons, gathering strength. If they get stronger, winning there, they will inevitably come here to sow fear and hatred, blast, kill and torture people,” Putin said.
Putin called on all nations that have pledged to fight terrorism to join forces and abandon the notion that terrorist groups can be used for country’s own goals. He stressed that the rise of terrorism in the Middle East over the last few years was caused to a large degree by foreign meddling, as certain nations sought to oust undesired leaders in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria.
“Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which used to be stable and relatively prosperous – Iraq, Libya, Syria – have turned into zones of chaos and anarchy that pose a threat to entire world,” Putin said. “We know why it happened. We know who wanted to oust unwanted regimes, and rudely impose their own rules. They triggered hostilities, destroyed statehoods, set people against each other and simply washed their hands [of the situation] – giving way to radicals, extremists and terrorists.”
Putin was speaking on Thursday before the Federal Assembly, a joint session of the two chambers of the Russian parliament, plus regional governors and the cabinet.
Russia’s long-time fight against international terrorism was at the forefront of the president’s speech. Putin reminded that the country lost thousands of lives over two decades of terrorist attacks and is still not safe from terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the bombings in Volgograd in 2014 and the bombing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt in October.
“Breaking the bandits’ back took us almost 10 years,” Putin said. “We practically pushed the terrorists out of Russia, but we are still engaged in a fierce fight against the remainder of the gangs. This evil still comes back occasionally,” he said.
Putin said the rise of militants groups in the Middle East in our time is not unlike the rise of Nazism in the mid-20th century, and that the world should learn from the mistakes of the past, when a failure to act in time resulted in the loss of millions of lives.
“We are facing a destructive barbaric ideology again and we have no right to allow those new obscurants to achieve their goals. We have to abandon all differences, create a single fist, a single anti-terrorist front, which would act in accordance with the international law and under the aegis of the United Nations,” he said.