Article and Photo: AP on News24
Moscow - Russia's President Vladimir Putin called on Thursday for "one powerful fist" to fight terrorism, hinted at more sanctions against Turkey and accused Western powers of creating "a zone of chaos".
Speaking in his State of the Nation address, Putin called for an end to what he called double standards that hampered uniting global efforts in fighting terrorism. Without naming the United States, he accused Washington and its allies of turning Iraq, Syria and Libya into a “zone of chaos and anarchy threatening the entire world” by supporting change of regimes in those countries.
Putin didn’t address a peace process in Syria in his speech, focusing on the need to pool global efforts in the fight against terrorism following the attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt. The ISIS group has claimed responsibility for both.
“We must leave all arguments and disagreements behind and make one powerful fist, a single anti-terror front, which would work on the basis of international law under the aegis of the United Nations,” he said, addressing lawmakers and top officials who gathered in an ornate Kremlin hall. “That means no shelter to bandits, no double standards, no contacts whatsoever with any terrorist organisations, no attempts to use them for some selfish goals, no criminal, bloody business with terrorists.”
Putin specifically targeted Turkey, accusing it of “allowing terrorists to earn money by selling oil stolen from Syria”.
“For that money the bandits are recruiting mercenaries, buying weapons and staging cruel terror attacks aimed against our citizens, as well as citizens of France, Lebanon, Mali and other countries,” he said.
Downing of warplane
He accused Turkey of a "treacherous war crime" in downing a Russian jet at the border with Syria.
“Allah must have punished Turkey’s ruling clique by depriving it of sense and reason,” Putin said.
Turkey said the plane violated its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings; Russia denies that. The shoot-down, the first time a Nato country downed a Russian plane in more than half a century, triggered a bitter falling out between the two nations, which had developed robust economic ties.
Moscow deployed long-range air defence missile systems to its base in Syria 50km south of the border with Turkey and slammed an array of economic sanctions on Turkey, including a ban on imports of fruit and vegetables and the sales of tour packages.
“We will remind them not just once about what they have done, and they will feel sorry about it more than just once,” Putin said without spelling out what other actions Russia may take.
”But if anyone thinks that after committing the treacherous war crime, the killing of our people, they will get away with [the ban on imports] of tomatoes or some restrictions on construction and other industries, they are deeply mistaken.”
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that talks with Turkey on building a pipeline that would allow Russia to export natural gas to the European Union through Turkey have been halted.
Turkish and Russian foreign ministers were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of an Organisation for Security and Co-operation meeting in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Thursday, the first meeting at a senior level since the plane’s downing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hotly denied that his country was involved in oil trade with the ISIS, and has pledged to step down if Moscow proves its accusations. The Russian Defence Ministry on Wednesday released an array of satellite and aerial images which it said show hundreds of oil trucks streaming across the border. The ministry insisted that the images definitively prove Turkey’s massive oil trade with the ISIS.
Top Defence Ministry officials also accused Erdogan and his family of personally benefiting from the oil trade with the ISIS, although they didn’t provide any evidence to back the claim.
Erdogan on Thursday claimed that the largest dealer for the ISIS oil is a Syrian who also has a Russian passport.
Moscow has said that its warplanes have been targeting terrorist groups near Syria’s border with Turkey, while Ankara has said the Russian raids have been aimed at moderate militant groups made of ethnic Turks who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. The militants shot and killed the downed plane’s pilot while he was descending on parachute and also killed a Russian marine who was involved in rescuing the plane’s co-pilot.
Following Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a climate summit in Paris, Putin said they have a shared understanding on how to move toward a political settlement in Syria and discussed efforts to compile a list of extremist groups and another one of members of legitimate political opposition.
ISIS on Wednesday released a video in which a Russian-speaking man identifies himself as Magomed Khasayev, confesses to spying for Russian intelligence and then is shown apparently being beheaded by another Russian-speaking man.
The authenticity of the video was not immediately clear, but Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed on Thursday that the victim was Chechen and called for revenge.
“We will send them to the next world on a one-way ticket,” Kadyrov said, according to Russian news agencies.
Thousands of Russian citizens from Chechnya, Dagestan and elsewhere have joined the Islamic State group in Syria.
Putin said in his speech that Russia’s air campaign in Syria that started on September 30 is intended to fend off a terror threat to Russia posed by militant groups in Syria that include people from Russia.
Putin said the military action has proven the capability of Russia’s modernised military.
“Modern Russian weapons have worked efficiently, and the priceless experience of its use in combat will be analysed to help further improve our weapons,” he said.