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Putin dampens hope for Turkish detente, threatening jets in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow earlier this week.REUTERS/ Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin

(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin signaled that Russia is ready to shoot down any Turkish military aircraft that strays into Syrian airspace, saying Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber in the region damaged relations between the two countries beyond repair.

“Turkey constantly violated Syrian airspace in the past,” Putin said Thursday during his annual news conference in Moscow. “Let them fly there now,” he said, pointing out that Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, the S-400, is covering all of Syria.

Putin has demanded an apology from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and damages after a SU-24 bomber was shot down and one of the pilots killed on Nov. 24. Turkey should have contacted Russia immediately to prevent the incident or at least call and apologize if it was an accident, Putin said at the news conference.

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The government in Moscow imposed economic sanctions on Turkey after the downing of the plane, which triggered the most serious clash between Russia and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in decades. Turkey said it acted after the Russian jet entered its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, while Russia says the plane on a bombing mission in Syria never crossed the border.

Syria Talks

As Russia prepares for talks with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other countries on the Syrian civil war in New York on Friday, Putin eased away from earlier comments that the U.S. may have leaked the Russian plane’s route to Turkey.

The president said he’s not aware of any U.S. involvement in the downing, while speculating that Turkey may have been trying to curry favor with the largest member of NATO.

“If someone in Turkey decided to kiss Americans on a certain body part, I don’t know whether it was right or not,” Putin said.

Turkey has called for Putin to hold face-to-face talks to ease tensions, while refusing to issue an apology.

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