Turkish media reports said Tuesday that Turkish jets shot down a warplane that violated national airspace at the border with Syria. Russia claims that the aircraft did not enter Turkish airspace.
However, a radar picture released by Turkey on Tuesday afternoon appears to prove that the Russian jet did indeed violate Turkish airspace. A Russian soldier was killed in the search for the two downed pilots.
Turkish presidential sources said the downed jet was a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24. According to Turkish reports, Russian helicopters were circling over the area. The Turkish military claimed that the aircraft had been warned 10 times in five minutes.
Speaking at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Tuesday afternoon, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the downing of the Russian plane is a "stab in the back" from Turkey.
Putin warned that the incident would have "significant consequences" for its relations with Turkey and criticized Ankara for turning to NATO to discuss the incident instead of first explaining to Russia what happened.
The NATO emergency meeting was due to take place in Brussels on Tuesday.
Russian media reported that in response to the incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov canceled a visit to Turkey that was scheduled for Wednesday. He also warned Russian citizens against all travel to Turkey.
According to CNN Turk, one pilot was in the hands of Turkmen forces in Syria, who were searching for the other pilot. Sky News in Arabic cited Syrian opposition sources that one pilot had been captured by the Turkmen rebels and the other was killed. Al Arabiya also said one pilot was dead.
A video sent to Reuters by a Syrian rebel group on Tuesday appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile and badly wounded on the ground, and an official from the group said he was dead. "A Russian pilot," a voice is heard saying as a group of men gather around him. "God is great," is also heard.
A spokesman for the rebel group that captured the Russian pilot says he was dead upon landing.
Jahed Ahmad of the 10th Brigade in the Coast told The Associated Press that the two Russian crew members tried to land in their parachutes in government-held areas after they ejected, but came under fire from members of his group.
He adds that rebels shot one of the pilots, who landed dead on the ground on Tuesday.
Reports emerged on Tuesday afternoon that the second pilot had also been killed.
The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement acknowledging that the aircraft belonged to the Russian military but denying that the jet had violated Turkish airspace. It added that it could prove the plane was over Syria the whole flight. Russia also said the plane had been downed by artillery, not other aircraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Tuesday called the incident "very serious", but said it was too early to draw conclusions.
"It is just impossible to say something without having full information," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters.
The Free Syria Army also claims to have destroyed a Russian helicopter that flew in to try and rescue the pilots from the downed plane, according to Sky News. A video purporting to show the grounded helicopter being shot at and blown up was released by the FSA.
Shashank Joshi of defense think tank the Royal United Services Institute said the large number of nations in the air over Syria had led to a dangerous and unpredictable situation.
He said there would be intense diplomatic efforts to defuse the situation, but the combination of a crowded airspace, Russian probing of Turkey's border and diplomatic between Moscow and Istanbul created a "real toxic cocktail that can easily erupt into crisis."
Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that had also violated Turkey's airspace.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the warplane crashed in the Turkmen Mountains region in the coastal province of Latakia.
Russia was later said to suspend its military contacts with Turkey.
He said it is not yet clear if the plane was Russian or Syrian, and the fate of the crew is not known yet.
The Turkmen Mountains region has been subjected to a government offensive over the past days, under the cover of Russian airstrikes.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.