Duvar English - Reuters
Russia on Feb. 28 said it was sending two warships armed with cruise missiles to waters off the Syrian coast and blamed Ankara for the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in Syria's Idlib region the previous day.Turkey will no longer stop Syrian migrant flow to Europe, says official
The killing of the Turkish soldiers on Feb. 27 and the wounding of 32 others, announced by the governor in Turkey's Hatay province bordering Syria, raised the Turkish military death toll in the region to 54 this month.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Syria and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned that Turkey will launch a full-scale offensive to repel Syrian forces unless they pull back from Turkish observation posts in the region.
Though trying to coordinate their efforts on Syria, Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey backs rebel forces opposing Assad.
Responding to the killings, a senior Turkish official said on Feb. 28 that Ankara would no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe. Turkey blamed an air strike by Syrian government forces for the deaths.Turkey-backed rebels regain key Syrian town of Saraqeb
According to Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Erdoğan, after the incident Ankara will view Syrian troops as enemy targets.
Russia's Defence Ministry was cited by the RIA news agency on Feb. 28 however as saying that the Turkish troops had been hit by artillery fire from Syrian government forces who were trying to repel an offensive by rebel forces.
It was quoted as saying that Ankara had failed to notify Moscow of the presence of Turkish troops in the area hit by shelling despite being in regular communication with the Russian military.
The Turkish troops had been deployed directly alongside anti-government rebels, the ministry was cited as saying. But according to information provided by Turkey there were no Turkish troops in the area and Russia said that Turkish forces "shouldn't have been there."
"Turkish military who were in the terrorist units’ battle formations came under Syrian troops’ fire near the inhabited community of Behun on Feb. 27," the ministry said.
Russia Doubles Down: Armed with powerful Kalibr SS-N-27 missiles, #ВМФ Project 11356M Adm Grigorovich class guided missile frigates #ЧФ BlackSeaFleet 30th Surface Ship Div’s Admiral Makarov & Admiral Grigorovich transited Bosphorus together towards Med. My pix v @reuterspictures pic.twitter.com/Ns2qHP7ZJk— Yörük Işık (@YorukIsik) February 28, 2020
According to the ministry, militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham made an attempt to launch a large-scale offensive in Idlib.
Russian war planes did not carry out any air strikes in the area at the time of the incident, Russian Defense Ministry said.
According to the ministry, "immediately after receiving information about the injured Turkish troops, Russia took comprehensive measures to ensure full cessation of hostilities by Syrian forces."
That included ensuring Syrian forces stopped shelling to allow Turkey to evacuate its dead and wounded.
Separately, and as tensions between Ankara and Damascus rose, Russia's Black Sea Fleet was cited by the Interfax news agency on Feb. 28 as saying it was sending two warships equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles to waters off the Syrian coast.