‘I receive direct threats’: Russia’ top diplomat in Turkey describes heated environment amid Idlib tensions

(L) Turkish military vehicles are seen in Hazano near Idlib, Syria, February 11, 2020. © REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi; (R) Aleksei Erkhov, Russian ambassador to Turkey © Twitter / RusEmbTurkey / Free

The Russian envoy to Ankara has said that Turkish social media is flooded with hatred against Russia, and revealed that he has received threats. Security for Moscow’s diplomats has now been increased amid the flare-up in Idlib.

“Look at the terrible madness on social media. I will read out some of the comments: ‘Say goodbye to your life,’ ‘No one will cry for you,’ ‘It’s time for you to burn,’ and so on,” Aleksey Yerkhov told Sputnik Turkey.

All of this had already been happening in the press and online five years ago. The reason back then was not Idlib, but Aleppo. What was the result of that? The crisis over a [Russian] plane, and the assassination of Ambassador Karlov. By the way, I receive direct threats [too].

Russia’s previous envoy to Turkey and Yerkhov’s immediate predecessor, Andrey Karlov, was killed by a Turkish national in Ankara in December 2016. Yerkhov pointed out that the hatred against Moscow and “incomprehensible bloodthirstiness” displayed by some Turkish bloggers and social media users does not help to defuse the situation. He admitted that there is some vitriol from Russian internet users as well.

In 2015, the Syrian Army was driving the militants out of Aleppo with Russian help. Relations between Moscow and Ankara hit rock bottom that year, after a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber. Both crew members managed to eject from the plane, but one of them was killed by militant fire from the ground.

Russia and Turkey managed to mend relations over the years but affairs became more complicated due to recent friction in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. The area is effectively the last-remaining stronghold controlled by the groups fighting against the Syrian government. Russia and Turkey set up a ‘de-escalation zone’ there, where all hostilities were supposed to end.

Ankara has been accusing the Syrian Army of violating the ceasefire in Idlib, while Moscow said that Turkey has failed on its promise to clear the ‘de-escalation zone’ of jihadist groups.

Turkey has further accused Syrian troops of shelling Turkish soldiers and killing civilians. Russia, for its part, insisted that the Syrian Army carries out strikes on terrorists only. Moscow said that the clash between Turkish and Syrian soldiers, after which the situation reached boiling point, happened because Ankara did not notify Damascus about its troop movements.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that Ankara will send military officials to Moscow in order to discuss the Idlib situation.

Meanwhile, additional security measures have been undertaken by Turkish authorities to protect Russia’s diplomats, the mission’s press attache told Ria Novosti.

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