Earlier today, Russia announced that special forces were indeed able to rescue one of the two pilots that ejected from the Su-24 shot down by Turkish F-16s near the Syrian border on Tuesday.
In the 36 or so hours since the incident, both Moscow and Ankara have been busy trying to “prove” their respective sides of the story. Turkey swears the Russian warplane was warned as many as 10 times on the approach and was only engaged once it entered Turkish airspace. Russia says the pilots knew the area “like the back of their hands” and that Ankara shot the plane down in the skies above Syria.
Here’s what rescued co-pilot Konstantin Murahtin had to say earlier today:
"There were no warnings. Not via the radio, not visually. There was no contact whatsoever. That's why we were keeping our combat course as usual. You have to understand what the cruising speed of a bomber is compared to an F-16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have shown themselves by heading on a parallel course. But there was nothing. And the rocket hit our tail completely unexpectedly. We didn't even see it in time to take evasive maneuvres."
Now, a recording of Turkey warning the Russian Su-24 has surfaced apparently courtesy of a civilian pilot from a Lebanese airline (who we imagine may get some questions from Hezbollah in the near future). Here’s The Telegraph’s summary:
An audio recording has emerged purporting to be the recording of Turkey warning the Russian plane.
The voice is heard saying in English: “Unknown air traffic position onto Humeymim 020, redirect to 26 miles. This is Turkish Air Force speaking - en guard. You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately."
Earlier today, the surviving pilot claimed that he had not received any visual or radio warning from Turkey - contradicting Turkey's claim that they warned them numerous times.
The recording was passed on to TV news channel Al-Arabiya by a civilian pilot for Lebanese airline MEA in the sky at the time.
He claimed that this event had happened multiple times in the last week, with each warning met with silence from Russia. This clam is not verified.
And here's the audio:
A civilian pilot who was in the sky when the Turkish military issued a warning to, and ultimately shot down, a Russian fighter jet has provided Al Arabiya News with a recording that proves the Turkish authorities issued several warnings to the plane.
The pilot, who was flying a Middle East Airlines (MEA) flight from Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport to a Gulf country at approximately 9:00 a.m. (local Lebanese time) yesterday also verified the authenticity of a similar recording which was uploaded on the information sharing website LiveLeak which many international media outlets have carried.
“I confirm the authenticity of their recording, I heard these exact same warnings over and over again and the part I recorded on my phone was actually towards the end when I felt the matter was getting serious,” the Lebanese aviator told Al Arabiya News on the condition of anonymity.
Later on Wedensday, the Turkish army officially released similar recordings.
So draw your own conclusions. Is this concrete proof that the Russian pilots were warned, or does this soundbite come courtesy of the audio/visual wizards at Al Hayat Media Center? We'll close with another quote from Konstantin Murahtin:
"I'm going to ask our command to keep me on this base — I have a debt to repay, for my commander."