Confusion over Russian foreign minister's statements about Turkish attack on Russian warplane

As the propaganda war over the Turkish attack on the Russian warplane in Syrian airspace continues, an article on the Canadian media website The Rebel by Ezra Levant incorrectly characterizes Russian foreign affairs minister Sergei Lavrov's official statements on the matter.

The problems occur in both the written and video portions of The Rebel's article.

In the written section, Levant claims that "[t]oday Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, acknowledged that the Russian jet had indeed been over Syrian territory – but for a grand total of seventeen seconds."

This is incoherent.  The issue is whether the jet was over Turkish, not Syrian, territory.  Turkey claims that the Russian jet was over Turkish territory for 17 seconds, which was purportedly the justification for Turkey to fire on the Russian jet.

In his YouTube commentary on the subject, Levant states the following:

Today, Sergei Lavrov – the Russian Foreign Minister – acknowledged that the Russian jet had indeed been over Turkish territory, but for a grand total of seventeen seconds.

Levant then plays a truncated several-second-long clip that appears to be from a 40-minute interview RT published with Lavrov in which Lavrov says through an English translator that "it a, was a there in the Turkish airspace for seventeen seconds."

Of course, this wasn't all that Lavrov was saying, and Levant's clip is at least partially out of context.  Here is Lavrov's complete quote speaking through the translator:

The foreign minister of Turkey started off by saying, by expressing his sincere -- as he put it -- condolences over the death over the death of the Russian servicemen. He expressed regret but at the same time he tried to justify the actions of the Turkish air force. He said that the Russian warplane invaded Turkish airspace despite multiple warnings and it a, was a there in the Turkish airspace for seventeen seconds. He also said that Turkish dispatches and pilots were not aware of the fact that it was a Russian plane because there are Syrian warplanes, too. But, also, I'd like to add there are NATO warplanes so even though it a, was a there for seventeen seconds, if you hit any plane you could actually a plane of your allies.

What it appears Lavrov was doing is repeating the claims of the Turkish foreign minister and then adding – keeping in mind this is via a translator speaking broken English – a sentence that, rather than admitting Russian incursion into Turkish airspace, was instead calling into question the logic of Turkey.  Namely, if your engagement policy is to shoot any unidentified plane in a complex multinational theatre of war that violates your airspace for only 17 seconds, then you are just as likely to hit planes from your allies as your are from your adversaries.

Later on in the interview, Lavrov is more clear on his views: "According to our data, we believe the Russian warplane was inside the Syrian territory and it fell 4 kilometers away from the Turkish border."

RT also interpreted Lavrov's statements in this manner, noting that "Lavrov reiterated the statements of the Russian Defense Ministry, which denied Ankara's allegations that the Russian warplane had violated Turkish airspace."

To date, we have no clear admission from Russia that its warplane did indeed violate Turkish airspace.

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