US and Russia spar over vetoed Syria sanctions

Anger as Moscow blocks UN sanctions over regime's use of chemical weapons

US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council
US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council
(Image credit: Kena Bentacur/Getty)

Islamic State bombs aimed to spoil peace plan, says Russia

22 February

A series of bomb attacks in Syria over the weekend were aimed at "disrupting attempts" to reach a political settlement, Russia said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings, which took place in Homs and Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 140 people and leaving hundreds of people wounded.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Fifty-seven people died after twin car bombs struck in the pro-government neighbourhood of Zahraa in Homs, according to Syrian state television. The area is home to members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, making it a frequent target for attacks.

Hours later, four separate blasts rocked the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least 83 people and wounding 178, according to the Sana news agency.

On the same day, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Washington and Moscow had negotiated a "provisional" deal on a truce in Syria's civil war. World leaders had hoped to see a ceasefire take effect last Friday, but could not agree on the terms.

Condemning Sunday's attacks, the Russia's foreign ministry said the "barbaric" crimes of extremists aimed to intimidate civilians and "disrupt attempts of reaching a long-term political settlement of the Syrian crisis in the interests of all Syrians".

The attacks came as President Assad urged his country's refugees to return home. Ordinary Syrians who fled the conflict due to the "standard of living that has been deteriorating drastically" could return without fear of action by the government, he told reporters.

Russia itself has been accused of committing war crimes in Syria. Amnesty International claims Moscow planes have deliberately targeted civilians and rescue workers, with strikes on schools, hospitals and homes.

"Yesterday's car bombs in Homs and Damascus are a glimpse of what a future 'peace' could well look like for a long time to come and what the Russians will inherit after their air campaign is over," says Alex Rossi, Middle East correspondent at Sky News.

The car bombs in Homs were the second most deadly in the city since 2011, marking a low point "even for Syria", he adds. "They expose clearly just how difficult it will be for any peace plan to heal the sectarian divisions which have torn the country apart."

Syria ceasefire in doubt after violence escalates

16 February

Violence and tensions are mounting in Syria after the United States accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its ally, Russia, of bombing civilian hospitals.

At least 50 people, including children, were killed at a number of medical facilities and schools in rebel-held areas in Aleppo and Idlib, the United Nations has reported.

The Kremlin has rejected claims from the UN and Turkey that it might have committed a "war crime" and said there was "no proof" that it was behind the bombings.

Susan Rice, the national security adviser for US President Barack Obama, said the air strikes "run counter" to the ceasefire agreement made in Munich last week.

Russia, the US and other world leaders had agreed to a "cessation of hostilities", although this was not accepted by Syrian parties involved in the civil war and specifically excluded state-sponsored fighting against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.

The ceasefire is still due to begin at the end of the week. However, the US State Department said the air strikes had cast doubt on Russia's willingness and ability to stop the "continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people".

The Syrian President has insisted he will not accept a ceasefire with rebels unless they surrender their weapons and has refused to negotiate a political transition with the groups he labels traitors.

"For us, everyone bearing arms against the state and the Syrian people is a terrorist, this matter is non-negotiable," he said in a televised speech.

Meanwhile, tensions between Russia and Turkey have reached a "new peak", says the Financial Times.

Each country has been attacking rebels supported by the other and are "edging closer to direct confrontation", says the newspaper.

The US has stressed the need for Russia to stop its air campaign against moderate opposition forces but with just days to go before the ceasefire begins, this is looking ever more unlikely.

Echoing the call, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "There is one man on this planet who can end the civil war in Syria by making a phone call and that's Mr Putin."

Syria: eight staff missing after bombing of MSF-backed hospital

15 February

A Medecins Sans Frontieres-backed hospital in Syria has been razed to the ground in an air strike this morning.

Four rockets struck the facility in Maarat al-Numan, a rebel-held town in the north-west of the country. Eight members of staff are missing and nine people were reported to have been killed

In a statement, Medecins Sans Frontieres condemned what it termed a "deliberate" strike on the hospital, but did not identify the provenance of the attack.

However, The Times reports the Russian air force was responsible. Hours earlier, Russian bombs had fallen on the rebel-held town of Azaz, 62 miles north of Maarat al-Numan, hitting its hospital and a gynaecological clinic.

The attack on Maarat al-Numan comes days after negotiators representing Russia, Nato, the Syrian government and opposition groups clinched a breakthrough deal to implement a partial ceasefire. The tentative agreement is due to take effect on Thursday, but world leaders are concerned Russia's air strikes on moderate rebel groups could break the deal before it even gets started.

Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said Russia must agree to restrict its targets to Islamic State and the extreme al-Nusra Front to ensure the cooperation of moderate rebel groups in the peace process.

"Unless Russia over the next days is going to stop, or at least significantly scale back that bombing, the moderate armed opposition will not join in this process," he said.

Massimiliano Rebaudengo, Medecins Sans Frontieres's head of mission in Syria, said the Maarat al-Numan attack meant 40,000 people have been left without access to healthcare in an area torn apart by violent conflict.

Since the start of 2016, 14 medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed in air strikes, killing dozens of people and further straining Syria's shattered healthcare system.

Russia and US agree tentative ceasefire deal for Syria

12 February

A ceasefire will take effect in Syria next week and humanitarian access will be granted to besieged areas of the country, world leaders announced today.

"We have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities in one week's time," John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said. "That is ambitious."

The agreement, put together by the members of the International Syria Support Group in Munich, offers some hope of relief to the country's population after the collapse of formal peace talks in Geneva last week.

But the "real test" is whether all parties honour those commitments, said Kerry.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said: "Instead of pointing the finger at each other we must recognise that we have a mutual enemy. Instead of playing geopolitical games, we must deal with problems that have become existential for human civilisation."

However, observers remain sceptical about the chances of success, given the complexity of the conflict. "There are many reasons to question whether either the relief effort or a meaningful ceasefire will come to pass," says the New York Times.

The agreement specifically excludes state-sponsored fighting against Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, leaving the door open for air strikes by the US, Russia, the UK and France.

The week-long delay has raised concern, as it will allow Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to continue his campaign to re-take the city of Aleppo from the rebel groups that have held it for four years, the Wall Street Journal says. It emerged that Russia had initially pushed for the ceasefire to begin on 1 March.

Others suggest that even when the ceasefire comes into effect, the relief it offers will be fleeting.

"At best, this agreement, however briefly it holds up, can serve as some confidence-building measure between the parties," writes Max Fisher at "They will spend its duration bickering, cheating and accusing one another, before one or all of them tear it up."

There is "no guarantee" Syrian forces will observe the ceasefire rules, he adds, and even if Assad and Russia comply, they do not have full control over pro-Assad Shia militias.

Syria: fears of 'massacre' as Assad bears down on Aleppo

9 February

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces are closing in on rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo, prompting fears of a "massacre" and a surge in refugees heading towards Turkey.

Syria's largest city, a key battleground in the civil war, is surrounded on three sides by government forces, with only one route going north-west towards Turkey still passable for refugees.

The main supply lines have been cut and last Friday, one rescue team counted 900 air strikes by government forces and their Russian backers.

Tens of thousands of Syrians, many of whom are women and children, have already fled to the Turkish border, but hundreds of thousands more are still in the city and its suburbs.

"Some of them are trapped because they are too poor, while others have simply given up trying to outrun a war that has raged back and forth across their country for years," says The Guardian.

Abu Shakra, a Free Syrian Army commander, told Sky News the city will fall to Assad's government in days unless Russia stops its indiscriminate bombing.

"The regime controls much of the city right into the centre now," he said. "If they cut the road out, they will take the city. There will be a massacre."

The Free Syrian Army and other moderate groups are also locked in battle with Islamic State.

"If Aleppo falls, it is estimated a surge of more than 70,000 refugees will head out of the city to join about 100,000 who are already in camps along the border with Turkey," says Sky News.

Those left in the city face not only air strikes, but the fear of starvation in a drawn-out siege.

Taking Aleppo would be a "highly symbolic victory for the regime", says The Guardian, but it would also require street-by-street fighting, which "effectively neutralises the advantage of Russian air support".

A blockade, however, would "aim to starve rebel forces and their civilian supporters into submission", says the newspaper, and with the main supply route blocked, "it will not take long before shortages bite in a ruined, desperate city".

Putin is strengthening Islamic State in Syria, says Hammond

2 February

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned that Russian air strikes in Syria are hampering international efforts to stop the civil war by strengthening Islamic State.

"It's a source of constant grief to me that everything we are doing is being undermined by the Russians," he told Reuters, during a visit to the Al Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Russian warplanes carried out their first attacks in Syria last September, claiming to target Islamic State strongholds and their key supply routes.

But monitoring groups say much of the bombing has taken place away from the frontline and has caused widespread civilian casualties.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last month that more than 1,000 civilians had been killed in attacks from Moscow.

Less than a third of strikes target IS, claimed the Foreign Secretary. "The Russians say they want to destroy Daesh but they are not bombing Daesh," he said, using the group's Arabic name.

"Their intervention is strengthening Daesh on the ground, doing the very opposite of what they claim to be wanting to achieve."

The Foreign Secretary went on to directly attack Russian President Vladimir Putin, arguing that it is impossible to know what his intentions were in Syria.

"We have no idea what the game plan in the Kremlin is. We don't know. There are no councils discussing these things. It is what is going on Mr Putin's head," he said.

Are Russia and Turkey headed for armed confrontation in Syria?

29 January

Tensions between Moscow and Ankara continue to escalate, with reports suggesting both sides are building up their military presence along the Turkey-Syria border.

"Russia and Turkey could be heading for an armed confrontation on Syrian soil," says The Times.

It reports that the Turkish military has begun clearing mines from its side of the border near the Jarablus crossing, which is controlled by Islamic-State.

"Turkey could be preparing for a ground incursion, even as the Kremlin goes out of its way to court local Kurdish forces," it says.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week that the deployment of 200 Russian troops in the Kurdish-controlled town of Qamishli, in north-east Syria, "would not be tolerated".

Russia's defence ministry dismissed reports it is establishing a base in the town as a "complete farce", Press TV reports.

The recent fallout was triggered by the Kremlin's intervention in the Syrian conflict and the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkish forces last November.

"There is no doubt that Russia is trying to undermine Turkish interests," said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.

"Russia is taking advantage of the tensions between Turkey and the Kurds and the Kurds are looking out for themselves."

The latest round of talks aimed at ending the conflict in Syria has begun in Switzerland today – without the opposition.

"Opposition leaders say representatives will not travel to Geneva unless steps are taken to alleviate the plight of civilians under siege and bombardment," the BBC reports.

Syrian civil war: Putin hints at asylum for Assad

13 January

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad could be granted political asylum in Russia if he has to leave his own country, Vladimir Putin suggested yesterday.

In a candid interview with German tabloid Bild, the Russian President said Moscow intended to stand by its ally throughout the current civil war.

Asked whether he would be willing to grant the Syrian leader asylum if he was forced to leave his country, Putin replied it was "too early" to give that option serious consideration - but then drew parallels between Assad and CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is now living in Russia.

"It was surely more difficult to grant Mr Snowden asylum in Russia than it would be in the case of Assad," he said. "First the Syrian population has to be able to vote and then we will see if Assad would have to leave his country if he loses the election.

"Until then, Russia will fight Islamic State and those anti-Assad rebels who co-operate with Islamic State."

The Russian leader admitted he thought "that President Assad has done much wrong over the course of this conflict", but added: "But the conflict would never have become so big if it had not been fuelled by outside of Syria – with weapons, money and fighters."

Syrian state news agency Sana reported that Assad responded to Putin's interview by praising the efforts of Russia in the conflict.

According to reports published by Sana, Russian officials claim to have destroyed around 1,100 terrorist positions within Syria since the beginning of 2016.

Russia and US unite to cut Islamic State's flow of funds

18 December

Finance ministers from 15 countries on the UN Security Council have adopted a resolution aimed at curbing Islamic State's funding. The resolution urges countries to "move vigorously and decisively to cut the flow of funds".

The move marked "a rare show of unity between the United States and Russia", said the Los Angeles Times, and appeared to signal that Moscow and Washington are "narrowing their differences" on how to confront the militant group.

"If we can get at [Islamic State's] wallet and its financial coffers in an intensified and even more aggressive way, that's going to have a material effect on their ability to prosecute war," US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said.

What is the point of the resolution?The motion aims to "disrupt" the group's millions of pounds of daily earnings from oil, ransom, extortion and antiquities. Any of the 193 UN member states found to be supporting IS can be subjected to UN sanctions, including asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes.

Who has proposed this motion?The motion was drafted by the US and Russia. However, the UK has also frequently said that any military effort against IS is futile without suffocating its revenue streams - a view repeatedly voiced by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Last night's meeting was chaired by the US Treasury secretary Jacob Lew, who earlier this month said cutting off IS from the international financial system is "critical to effectively combating this violent terrorist group".

How does IS make its money?Through a range of criminal activities including extortion, ransom and the sale of antiquities. Oil is one of its most lucrative income streams, with a recent Financial Times investigation suggesting the terrorist group has "a sprawling operation almost akin to a state oil company" that brings in the equivalent £398m a year.

Taxation is another income stream, according to the New York Times, with £597m accrued from residents and businessmen in the territories IS occupies. Earlier this year, Channel 4 News examined the group's financial arrangements:


What will this motion do?It is designed to garner a collective crackdown. First it calls for the 193 UN member states "to move vigorously and decisively" to cut the "flows of funds and other financial assets and economic resources" to those on the sanctions list as well as actively provide names of individuals, groups or entities.

Each country has 120 days to detail what it is doing to tackle the financing of IS. The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is to provide an initial "strategic-level report" in 45 days on IS financing, with updates every four months.

Can it work?A collective effort is thought to be able to help, though it will not be easy. Taxation, oil and extortion means the majority of IS funding comes from "internal sources that are difficult to disrupt".

"This is in contrast to al-Qaeda, whose funding typically comes from kidnapping for ransom and outside donors, including charities," according to Associated Foreign Press.

Russia fires warning at Turkish vessel in Aegean Sea

14 December

Tensions between Turkey and Russia have been reignited after the Russian destroyer Smetlivy fired warning shots to stop a Turkish trawler from approaching or colliding with it.

The incident occurred 13 miles north of the Greek island of Limnos in the Aegean Sea yesterday, and has been called a deliberate act of provocation by the Russian defence ministry.

The Turkish vessel was observed approaching the warship and, according to Russian officials, was not responding to visual or radio contact. When the Turkish ship came within 600 metres, the Russian ship fired several warning shots, causing the trawler to veer away.

"Only by luck was tragedy avoided," said the Russian defence ministry.

Turkish officials are said to be waiting for further information before giving an official response. However, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has spoken to local media about the incident.

"We are not on the side of escalating tension, we are on the side of de-escalating tense situations through dialogue," Cavusoglu said, according to the DHA news agency.

The incident comes a week after a serviceman was filmed holding what appeared to be a rocket launcher on the deck of a Russian ship as it sailed through Istanbul on its way to the Aegean Sea.

"For a Russian soldier to display a rocket launcher or something similar while passing on a Russian warship is a provocation," Cavusoglu told reporters, according to Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper. "If we perceive a threatening situation, we will give the necessary response."

On 24 November, a Russian military jet was shot down by Turkish warplanes near the Syrian border, prompting a war of words between the two countries.

Turkey hits back after Russian allegations about Islamic State oil

4 December

The diplomatic row between Russia and Turkey continues to intensify, with Ankara now accusing Moscow of profiting from Islamic State (IS) oil.

"Who buys oil from [IS]? Let me say it: George Haswani, holder of a Russian passport and a Syrian national, is one of the biggest merchants in this business," said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

His comments come just one day after the Russian defence ministry levelled the same accusation at the Turkish president, insisting they had proof to implicate him and his family in the illegal trade.

In his speech, Erdogan strongly denied the claims and promised to stand down if Russian officials could provide evidence of his involvement.

The finger-pointing continues in the wake of the downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian border, in what Vice News describes as "an odd diplomatic version of 'I know you are but what am I'".

Washington has dismissed Russia's claims, insisting that the Turks have been "great partners" in the fight against the extremist group.

"There is no Turkish government complicity in some operation to buy illegal oil from [IS]," said a State Department spokesperson. "We just don't believe that to be true in any way, shape or form."

The latest row comes as the countries' foreign ministers hold a short meeting in Belgrade, the first such meeting since the diplomatic crisis began.

Russian president Vladimir Putin snubbed Erdogan's call for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris early this week, AFP reports

Russia warns Turkey it 'will regret' downing jet near Syria border

3 December

Vladimir Putin has issued a stern warning to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the war of words between the two leaders continues to escalate.

The Russian president said Turkey "will regret" the downing of one of its fighter jets near the Syrian border last week, the BBC reports.

Moscow has already imposed a range of sanctions against Ankara, including banning the import of certain Turkish goods and restricting Russian travel to the country.

"If anyone thinks Russia's reaction will be limited to trade sanctions, they are deeply mistaken," Putin warned in a televised address to the nation.

Meanwhile, the Russian defence ministry claims to have proof that Erdogan is directly benefitting from the sale of oil in territory occupied by Islamic State – a claim the president vehemently denies.

"Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq," said Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov.

"According to information we've received, the senior political leadership of the country - President Erdogan and his family - are involved in this criminal business," he said.

The ministry unveiled satellite images which its claims show a convoy of lorries loading oil in IS-controlled regions in Syria and Iraq and then crossing the border into Turkey, Aljazeera reports.

Erdogan immediately hit back at the accusations, saying: "Nobody has the right to slander Turkey by saying Turkey is buying [Islamic State] oil."

Russia calls for tighter clamp-down on Islamic State oil trade

2 December

Russia is said to be working on a UN Security Council document that aims to clamp down on illegal oil trading with terrorist groups.

The country wants to enforce stricter implementation of Resolution 2199, introduced earlier this year, which condemns any trade with terrorist organisations such as Islamic State, Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has said.

The resolution provides a "veritable shopping list of crimes" in which IS participates, says the New York Times, from trafficking of arms, people, drugs and artefacts to illicit trade in oil and kidnapping for ransom.

The "large revenues" help IS maintain its territories, pay for training camps, fund the IS "propaganda machine" and provide salaries to fighters, says the newspaper.

But Churkin has told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti: "We are not happy with the way Resolution 2199, which was our initiative, is controlled and implemented.

"We want to toughen the whole procedure. We are already discussing the text with some colleagues and I must say that so far there is not a lot of contention being expressed."

US ambassador Samantha Power told a news conference yesterday that it was a "shared objective". The US is also focused on the need to stop IS from accessing funds "whether through oil sales or through moving money through the international financial system", she said.

The news comes after Russian president Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of shooting down one of its warplanes on 24 November to protect Turkey's secret oil trade with IS.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied the claim and insisted the plane violated his country's airspace.

"Everyone must know that we are not that disreputable to make such a deal with terrorist organisations," he said, promising to resign if Russia could prove its claim. He also suggested that Putin should step down if the allegations were untrue, reports CNN.

Following the downing of the plane near the Syrian border, Moscow has banned the import of certain Turkish goods, imposed travel restrictions on Russians travelling to Turkey and planned to stop some Turkish companies doing business in Russia.

Turkey urged to close its border with Syria to fight Islamic State

30 November

The United States has urged Turkey to close a stretch of its border with Syria in order to stem the flow of thousands of foreign fighters and supplies to Islamic State.

The request involves sealing off the 60-mile frontier between the cities of Kilis and Jarabulus with the deployment of thousands of Turkish troops, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have increased the pressure to step up the fight against IS, with US and European intelligence suggesting that some of the jihadis involved passed through that frontier.

"The game has changed. Enough is enough. The border needs to be sealed," said a senior Washington official. "[IS] is an international threat, and it's coming out of Syria and it's coming through Turkish territory."

A Pentagon official said cordoning-off the section of the border would require approximately 10,000 additional troops, while a "broader humanitarian mission" would demand a task force of 30,000

The US points to the successful closure of Syria's border with Turkey from the eastern banks of the Euphrates River to Iraq by Syrian Kurdish forces. "[It said] the operations conducted by the Kurds have almost completely halted the flow of foreign fighters there," the Journal reports.

If Turkey is able to effectively seal off the 5550-mile border, it would be a "serious blow" to IS and could prove more damaging than US-led air strikes, argues The Independent's Patrick Cockburn.

"The US move follows increasing international criticism of Turkey for what is seen as its long-term tolerance of, and possible complicity with, Isis and other extreme jihadi groups," he says.

But a senior Turkish official responded by insisting that the military is already "determined" to keep IS away from the frontier, adding pointedly: "There is no need to receive any kind of warning or advice from anyone, including our US partners."

Another official insisted: "Just closing down the border would not be enough to solve our problems."

Turkey braced for Russian energy sanctions

27 November

Russia is to impose wide-ranging economic sanctions on Turkey in retaliation for the shooting down of one of its jets on Tuesday.

Turkey has so far refused to apologise for the incident, in which one Russian pilot died.

Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, said "economic and humanitarian measures" could come into force within days, and would include bans on food shipments, investment projects and "works and services provided by Turkish companies".

The move is likely to have a serious impact on the Turkish economy. Russia is Turkey's second-largest trading partner and supplies 60 per cent of its natural gas.

"Russia is one of Europe's largest gas provider," says CNBC. "Whenever a diplomatic spat occurs between it and its western neighbors, you can bet that Russia will attempt to use its energy (and specifically, its gas) supply, as leverage."

Other sanctions may include the closing of Russian airspace and ports to Turkish companies, and the suspension of cultural exchanges. The Russian foreign ministry has advised Russians not to travel to Turkey.

Western diplomats are concerned that the Russian military has also "suspended all communication channels with the Turkish military, including a 'hot line' to help avoid air accidents," the BBC reports, increasing the risk of further incidents.

Russia is also tightening controls on Turkish food imports. The move follows similar restrictions imposed by Moscow on Georgian wine, Ukrainian chocolate and a range of Western products following the introduction of US-EU sanctions last year.

Turkey had been one of the countries to benefit from Russia's food embargo against the West, enjoying a 19 per cent increase in bilateral trade in agricultural products, worth over $4bn.

Russia-Turkey tensions high amid disputed claims over downed jet

26 November

Tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to ratchet up, amid disputed claims over the Russian warplane that was shot down near the Syrian border.

Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, the surviving pilot, has claimed there was "no way" he could have violated Turkish airspace and insisted there was "no contact whatsoever" from Turkish authorities before they fired at his aircraft on Tuesday.

"I could see perfectly on the map and on the ground where the border was and where we were. There was no danger of entering Turkey," he said.

The Turkish military, however, strongly disagrees and has released what it says is an audio recording of the warning it gave to the Russian jet. An official said they had gone to great efforts to find and rescue the pilots of the plane and that "concrete evidence" of airspace violation had been shared with the relevant international bodies.

According to Russian agency LifeNews, Murakhtin was found through a radio signal by an 18-man Syrian special forces team after he had hidden for many hours after landing.

Russian officials believe the second pilot, named as Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, was killed by gunfire from the ground, apparently from Syrian Turkmen fighters in Syria's northern Latakia province. Russia has since carried out heavy air raids in the area and announced that it would deploy anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

Back in Moscow, the Turkish embassy was reportedly vandalised by a group of young people, who threw rocks at ground-floor windows. Witnesses claim police at the scene did not make arrests.

"Russian officials made it clear that despite the fury the reaction would be measured," says The Guardian. "However, the tone of relations between the two countries is likely to change dramatically."

The downing of the jet comes at a "tense" time for relations between Russia and the West generally, notes Catherine Boyle at CNBC. On the one hand, Moscow's intervention in Crimea and Ukraine has led to substantial sanctions, while on the other there are increased calls for a united effort to end the civil war in Syria.

After the Paris attacks, Boyle suggests France is taking the doctrine of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" more seriously than other Western powers. This evening Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande, who has already called for a de-escalation in tensions between Turkey and Russia.

US President Barack Obama has also been among the world leaders to urge Turkey and Russia to put aside any bad feelings and focus instead on destroying jihadist groups.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.