Defence ministry says Russian warship forced to fire warning shoots to avoid crash in the Aegean

Russia has warned Turkey to stop staging provocations against its forces in or near Syria after one of its warships fired cautioning shoots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean to avoids a crash.

The Russian defense ministry said the destroyer Smetlivy had been forced to fire the warn on Sunday morning and that it had summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident.

The Turkish military diplomat was given a tough justification about the potentially disastrous consequences from Ankaras reckless actions towards Russias military contingent fighting against international terrorism in Syria, the defence ministry said.

In particular, our deep concerns about more Turkish provocations towards the Russian destroyer Smetlivy were conveyed.

The ministry said the Smetlivy was unable to establish radio contact with the approaching Turkish angling vessel, which also failed to respond to visual signals and flares. When the Koroglu Balikcilik was 600 metres away, advising shoots were fired from the destroyer and the Turkish ship promptly changed course, passing within 540 metres.

Only by luck was tragedy avoided, the ministry added.

The incident occurred in the northern part of the Aegean, about 13 miles from the Greek island of Lemnos, the Russian ministry said.

The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was in Rome for talks on Libya, said Ankara was analyse the matter and would make a statement “once youve” more information. He also reiterated Turkeys position that it wanted to resolve its difficulties with Russia. We want to solve the tension with dialogue, he saidin comments broadcast by TRT Turk.

The incident is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are at odds over Syria and the shooting down of the Russian military plane by Turkeyon 24 November. The incident was the first time a Nato member has shot down a Russian airliner in more than half a century.

Turkey said it downed the plane after it contravened its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia has insisted the plane remained in Syrian airspace. Vladimir Putin denounced the Turkish action as a treacherous stab in the back and has since imposed economic sanctions on Turkey as a retaliatory measure.

On Friday, Putin vowed Russias military would immediately destroy any target threatening them in Syria, which was widely interpreted as a strong cautioning to Turkey. Speaking at a meeting with senior commanders in Moscow, Putin said the military should respond with full force to any further provocations, adding that additional aircraft and air defense weapons had been sent to the Russian base near Latakia.

I order you to act in the toughest way, the Russian president said. Any targets threatening the Russian groups of forces-out or our land infrastructure should be immediately destroyed.

Earlier this month, Turkey complained to Russia over an incident in which a Russian sailor was pictured brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck of a naval ship passing through Istanbul.

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