Russian military: Turkish president Erdogan and family benefit from illegal IS oil trade

Sharply raising the stakes in Moscow's spat with Ankara, Russia's top military brass on Wednesday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of personally profiting from oil trade with Islamic State militants.

MOSCOW — Sharply raising the stakes in Moscow’s spat with Ankara, Russia’s top military brass on Wednesday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of personally profiting from oil trade with Islamic State militants.

The bluntly-worded accusations follow Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border last week, the first time a NATO member shot down a Russian aircraft in more than half a century. The fierce personal attack on Erdogan reflects the Kremlin’s anger and signals that Russia-Turkey tensions will likely continue to escalate.

The Russian Defence Ministry invited dozens of foreign military attaches and hundreds of journalists to produce what they said were satellite and aerial images of thousands of oil trucks streaming from the IS-controlled deposits in Syria and Iraq into Turkish sea ports and refineries.

“The main customer for this oil stolen from Syria and Iraq is Turkey,” said Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov. “The top political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, is involved in this criminal business.”

The Turkish leader has denied Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier claims of Turkey’s involvement in oil trade with the IS, and has pledged to step down if Moscow proves its accusations.

“No one has the right to make such a slander as to suggest that Turkey buys Daesh’s oil. Turkey has not lost its moral values as to buy oil from a terror organization,” Erdogan said in Wednesday’s speech at Qatar University, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, shortly after the Russian Defence Ministry made the claims. “Those who make such slanderous claims are obliged to prove them. If they do I would not remain on the presidential seat for one minute. But those who make the claim must also give up their seat if they can’t prove it.”

The Russian plane’s downing has badly strained the relationship between the two nations that had earlier developed close economic ties. Russia has responded by deploying long-range air defence missiles at its air base in Syria and slamming Turkey with an array of economic sanctions.

Erdogan warned Wednesday that “if Russia’s disproportionate reactions continue, we will be forced to take our own measures.”

Antonov, meanwhile, said that IS militants make $2 billion a year from the illegal oil trade, and he squarely put the personal blame on Erdogan.

“Maybe I’m speaking too bluntly, but the control over that thievish business could only be given to the closest people,” Antonov said, adding that Erdogan’s son heads a top energy company and his son-in-law has been named Turkey’s energy minister.

“What a great family business!” Antonov said with sarcasm. “Obviously, no one but the closest people could be entrusted to control such dealings.”

Antonov didn’t provide any specific evidence to back up the claims of personal involvement of Erdogan and his family in the oil trade with the IS.

“Turkish leaders, including Mr. Erdogan, won’t step down and they won’t acknowledge anything even if their faces are smeared with the stolen oil,” he added.

A Russian parliament member, Vasily Likachev, told state news agency Tass that Moscow has sufficient evidence on oil sales to file a claim with the UN International Court of Justice.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner categorically rejected Russia’s allegations.

“We never said oil smuggling from ISIL is not a problem,” he said, using an alternative acronym for IS. But “there is no Turkish government complicity in some operation to buy illegal oil from ISIL. We just don’t believe that to be true in any way, shape or form.”

Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said Russian airstrikes on the IS oil infrastructure in Syria had halved the militants’ profits. He said the Russian air raids have destroyed 32 oil production facilities, 11 refineries and 1,080 oil trucks since they began on Sept. 30.

Turkey has said it downed the Russian plane after it intruded its airspace for 17 seconds despite numerous warnings, and has refused to apologize for the shoot-down. The Russian pilot was killed by militants after bailing out from the plane and a Russian marine was also killed on a rescue mission to retrieve a second pilot.

Russia has insisted that its plane remained in Syrian airspace and has denounced the Turkish action as a “treacherous stab in the back.”

Erdogan has voiced regret over the incident, but Putin has made it clear that he expects a formal apology. The Russian leader refused to meet with Erdogan at a global climate in Paris, which they both attended Monday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that he would agree to meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting of foreign ministers in Belgrade, the Serbian capital.

“We will meet with the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, we will hear what he has to say,” Lavrov said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart in Nicosia.

Just Posted

Kinky campground turned down in Red Deer County

County’s municipal planning commission said campground didn’t meet regulations

City aims to improve transit efficiency

Citizen input survey is available until Aug. 6 on city’s website

Crops looking good halfway to harvest

Coming off a lousy 2018, farmers having a much better year

Adriana LaGrange tops Alberta ministers’ office costs in May

The costs accumulated by three central Alberta MLAs serving as cabinet ministers… Continue reading

Opinion: RCMP and military legal settlements ignore accountability

If you asked Canadians which institutions stand at the heart of our… Continue reading

Transat co-founder could make more than $17 million from sale to Air Canada

MONTREAL — Transat A.T. Inc. chief executive Jean-Marc Eustache stands to make… Continue reading

‘Joker’ and Fred Rogers drama among galas set for Toronto film festival

TORONTO — A standalone Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix, a drama featuring… Continue reading

These mannequins aren’t for fashion. They’re for medical training

Lying on the table, surrounded by two nurses, a woman shrieks in… Continue reading

Lamoureux twins start foundation to help disadvantaged kids

BISMARCK, N.D. — Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, stars of the United… Continue reading

Canadian swimmer Kylie Masse wins second gold at world aquatics championship

GWANGJU, Korea, Republic Of — Canadian swimmer Kylie Masse has defended her… Continue reading

Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie reconcile a changing Hollywood

LOS ANGELES — Once upon a time, not too far from Hollywood,… Continue reading

Toronto-raised sexologist Shan Boodram on winning ‘The Game of Desire’

Toronto-raised sex educator Shan Boodram wants to bring a more “human approach”… Continue reading

Most Read