Turkey scrambled a pair of F-16 jets to intercept Russian warplanes which had allegedly violated its airspace on Saturday 3 October, according to the Turkey's foreign ministry. The Russian ambassador was also summoned to the ministry in protest against the violation. Turkey urged Russia not to repeat the violation or it would be held "responsible for any undesired incident that may occur".
Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched air strikes in Syria which the Kremlin said could last between three to four months against opponents of their ally, embattled president Bashar al-Assad. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that the bombing campaign is a grave mistake and questioned Russia's long-standing support to Assad regime. "The steps Russia is taking and the bombing campaign in Syria are quite unacceptable to Turkey," Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport before leaving for a visit to France.
Western officials and activists have questioned the real purpose of Russian campaign in Syria, claiming Putin's real target under cover of assault on the Islamic State (Isis) is help Assad reclaim lost territory. Several strikes have hit the Syrian province of Latakia, near the Turkish border, including one that struck near a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Activists on the ground have accused Russian jets of targeting civilians, a claim that Russian officials deny.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group, said that at least 39 civilians and 14 fighters were killed in four days of Russian raids. Latakia is a stronghold of president Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and Turkey have long been at odds over Syria, with Putin emerging as Assad's main international supporter and Erdogan seeking his removal as key to the solution to the conflict. Turkey has given funds and arms to Islamist rebels seeking to oust the Syrian president and has been lobbying for an Is-free safe zone, where some of the two million Syrian refugees could be hosted. Erdogan has accused Syrian military of turning a blind eye to the killing of dozens of civilians.