Turkey Forces Russian Passenger Plane Bound For Syria To Land And Discover Weapons
[Update: 1:43pm 10-12-12] Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says "we have no secrets", then was asked about the nature of the radar equipment Russia claims was on board and Sergei said he can not release that kind of information.
[Update: 1:34pm 10-12-12] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says there was only radar equipment on the plane, but acknowledges its "dual-use" capabilities. Syria demands Turkey put the confiscated items on public view. Relations between Turkey and Syria continue to deteriorate. Turkish military forces have been put on a state of heighten readiness.
[Update 1:17pm 10-11-12]: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan confirms munitions were also found on board.
The Turkish military reacted to intelligence reports that a Russia civilian passenger plane (an Airbus A320) flying from Moscow to Syria was carrying military weapons and equipment by using F-16's to force the plane down as it flew over Turkish airspace, landing at Esenboga airport in Ankara.
A subsequent search of the plane by Turkish military forces found military hardware and weapons capable equipment on board along with 37 passengers and crew.
Authorities released the passengers and crew to continue on to their destination in Syria after claiming they were on a vacation trip to Syria, a violent civil war torn country directly south of Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said "there are elements... that are not legitimate in civilian flights."
Among military items confiscated are communications equipment and electronic jamming equipment, along with small arms bound for Syrian government forces.
Syria and Russia have said this amounts to air piracy, while Turkey, once a strong ally of Syria, said it refuses to allow weapons into Syria and that it will continue to defend its territory. Russia's foreign ministry have demanded an explanation, but refused to formally make any requests, but adding such actions put Russian lives at risk.
According to Turkish officials, as of Thursday, they still have not received any formal word from Moscow about the plane, nor as Moscow made any inquiries about either the passengers or the cargo found on board.
Political analyst Steve Mcgraw said "Russia basically got caught outright with its pants down and doesn't want to take any formal action because it will be in effect, an admission of guilt. Forcing a passenger plane to make an otherwise routine landing at a safe airport doesn't put lives at risk and Russia is just playing politics to save face."
Syria has launched mortars and rockets into Turkey on several occasions prompting Turkish forced to respond with heavy artillery and its parliament to authorize military force.
The U.S. and NATO have come out strongly in support of Turkey over the recent developments.