33 KIA in Airstrike on Turkish HQ in Syria. Russia Denies Ankara’s Request to Evacuate the Wounded by Air

Russia's reply to Turkey pushing the Syrian army from Syrian territory, severing the Damascus-Aleppo highway

November 2015 Turkey ambushed and shot down a Russian Su-24 over the Syrian-Turkish border in a pre-planned and pre-approved operation. Relations temporarily worsened but after the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey Putin and Erdogan made nice and Kremlin denied the Russian military satisfaction. Now they’ve been let off the chain and got themselves their pound of flesh. 

–UPDATED at bottom–

With a single strike, Turkish KIA in its Idlib incursion more than doubled from about 20 to over 50. 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike yesterday at around 10-11pm local time at a place called Balyun which is now near the southern end of the al-Qaeda-held territory in Syria.

Initially, the number was 9 then kept rising through the night, but 33 could remain the final number as supposedly everyone has been dug up from the rubble now, and the wounds of those still surviving are not life-threatening.

Regardless of who actually delivered the precision bombs (very likely the Russians), this was a joint Russian-Syrian op. If it was Russian warplanes and pilots they had to get permission from Assad. And if it was the Syrians (doubtful given their lack of experience with smart bombs and lack of night targeting capabilities) the Russians doubtlessly planned it and held the Syrians’ hand every step of the way (— but at this point, this would just be an unnecessary complication).

In any case, the strike was possible because Russia keeps Idlib skies closed to Turkey, and Russia’s attitude was demonstrated sufficiently with the refusal of the Turkish request to allow speedy medical evacuation of the wounded with helicopters, which doubtlessly contributed to more agony and possibly deaths of Turkish soldiers. (An aerial evacuation was allowed earlier this month when Turks were hit by Syrian counter-artillery fire but since then a video emerged of Turkish soldiers firing an anti-aircraft missile at a Russian plane.)

The strike came some 12 hours after a Turkish-rebel counter-offensive wrestled the control of the town of Sarabiq from the Syrian army. In other words, 12 hours after Erdogan had joined up with al-Qaeda to sever the Damascus-Aleppo highway — the key national transportation link of a neighboring state.

As news hit first Twitter, and later on Instagram and YouTube were taken down in Turkey:

For the next three days Turkey has opened its borders to displaced Syrians (and anyone else for that matter) who want to go on to Europe, only this time it’s not to shake down EU for money, but to seek its aid against Russia:

Turkey decided to immediately open its southwestern border with Syria and allow Syrians fleeing the pro-government forces’ assault free passage to Europe for the next 72 hours, Turkish official sources told Middle East Eye.

A senior Turkish official said Syrian refugees headed towards Europe won’t be stopped either on land or by sea.

The official said Ankara had ordered police, gendarmerie, border guards and sea guards to stand down on Thursday if they detected any Syrian refugees trying to cross into Europe.

Sadly, had it been up to Turkey’s secular opposition this would have never happened:

Turkey’s main opposition leader Kilicdaroglu (leader of Ataturk’s secular CHP) 2 hours before airstrike on Turkish soldiers:

“Erdogan wants regime forces to retreat from their own land, it is nonsense. There is no PKK presence in Idlib,why are we over there?”

If fact while some Turks are angry at Russia, others are angry at Erdogan for leading the Turkish army into Idlib.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s pro-government TV stations and other media are tirelessly reporting official claims of having killed hundreds of Syrian soldiers. One of the videos shared by the state-run Anadolu supposedly shows Turkish artillery “neutralizing 709 regime elements” in the past 17 days:

Well, when you invade a neighboring country and keep killing the soldiers of its national army you can expect some blowback, especially if that national army is backed by the Russian air force.

Turkey for its part is officially blaming Assad, while Russia hasn’t said a word (UPDATED below, Russian MoD has since issued a statement). Obviously both are still interested in containing this if possible.

In fact, the Turkish TV and press highlighting gruesome Turkish attacks on Syrian soldiers in the past days, is at least partly in the service of satisfying possible public bloodlust. This gives Erdogan some maneuvering space not to escalate further. But of course, whether he actually takes advantage of that is another matter.

While I think this was Russia’s reply to the Turkish-jihadi offensive on Saraqib specifically, Elijah J. Magnier, the venerable Middle East reporter, reckons it was primarily about MANPADs (Turkish Hand Suspected as 2nd Syrian Army Helicopter Shot Down in DaysVIDEO: Turkish Troops Fire Missile at Russian Strike Aircraft):

The US, of course, is taking advantage of the situation to tell Erdogan to come back to the reservation:

Well, if Washington wants to go back to being on the side of al-Qaeda that’s its business but I wonder what 9/11 families would have to say about that.


The Russian Ministry of Defense has finally spoken out only to deny Russian aircraft were involved (they claim it was Syrian “shelling”). Well, they were obviously never going to say it was them. Not at this stage yet. They did, however, claim that Turks were intermingled with militants of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is Russian for “you had it coming/it’s your own fault”.

According to the information provided by Ankara, there were no Turkish troops in the Behun area, the Defense Ministry stressed.

All the between-the-lines Russian messaging aside, their official story then is that after nearly a month of escalating Syrian-Turkish clashes in which the Syrians inflicted just 20 Turkish KIA combined, their artillery suddenly drove that up to over 50 in just one engagement? Just mathematically that’s not terribly likely.

It reminds one of 2014 when the Russian MoD similarly refused to acknowledge soldiers who had taken over the Simferopol International Airport in Crimea. A week later the entire peninsula was Russian.

Only in this case, the denial was issued for Turkey’s sake, to allow it to save some face. Turks will appreciate the denial since it confirms their own story, but they did not react well to the rest of the Russian MoD message. In fact, Turkey’s defense minister accused Russia of lying about everything else, saying the Russians knew the Turks were there, that attacks did no let up after Turks contacted the Russians, and that even medevac vehicles were targeted. In other words, the Turks are very upset with Russia. I wonder why?

  1. thomas malthaus says

    Russia has hypersonic weapons and they know how and where to use them.

    I hope cooler heads exist within NATO. While the coronavirus might be a net global deflationary result, the mere thought of Russia engaging Turkey and NATO or any member thereof, would probably be the tinder the sets off the hockey-stick upward movement in precious metals.

    This strikes me as a opportune moment to sell equities and bonds while paying keen attention to physical commodities.

  2. Mikhail Garchenko says

    Btw, the cretin ( “friend recep” ) GOT THAT HE DESERVES. And be careful: https://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/5671938.html

  3. Richard Aahs says

    It appears that ‘Russia’ is fulfilling the role of sensible ‘adult’ in the area.
    So sad to acknowledge that the US squandered the opportunity to be the peace maker and sustainer at the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    1. Ace says

      A real tragedy. Here we are over 100 years since the massive slaughter of the Great War and all the US can do is play chest bump and swell with pride at how we are stealing Syrian oil. 500+K Syrian deaths because of what we have done in Syria to promote al-Qaida and ISIS and do all in our power to hinder the legitimate response of the Syrian government to deal with a minor disturbance back in 2011.

      We are in thrall to the Israelis and Scott Ritter made it crystal clear that the assissination of Gen. Soleimani was an utterly dishonest action. Like the mistaken” bombing of by Coalition aircraft of the SAA position SW of Deir ez-Zor.

      It didn’t have to be. US foreign policy lacks any coherence let alone any moral basis. Our playing soldier on Russia’s border is just pathetic.

  4. cechas vodobenikov says

    erdogan seems like a rodent lost in a maze—each turn a dead end

    1. CHUCKMAN says

      Yes, and he appears to have begun gnawing at his own tail.

      1. Canosin says

        hypocrite…….in your last comment you were whining the death of the Turkish goatf*ckers …….a wheathercock is at least more steady in his positioning

  5. Mikhail Garchenko says

    All this would not have happened, if Bashar “et alia” had not allowed this:

    Remember the f***ing “green buses”..? Thanks to it, Idlib became the BIG cockroache´s nest in Syria.

    1. Jihadi Colin says

      The only other option was a Stalingrad in every surrounded town. This way they’re isolated on one nest.

      1. itchyvet says

        Much easier to deal with them in isolated enclaves, then all together.

    2. Ace says

      It was the right decision. Jihadi Colin can ‘splain it to you.

  6. Jihadi Colin says

    Why does Russia want to allow the Ottomans to save face? It’s time to annihilate all the surrounded Ottoman “observation posts” and drag off the surviving war criminals in chains to PoW camps in Damascus.

  7. David Chu says

    Russian revenge, to paraphrase a famous Star Trek saying, is best served hot!

  8. cap960 says

    As for The 9/11 families most have forgotten. Most don’t care or don’t want to know the US is now an ISIS and Alqaeda ally.

    1. David Chu says

      The United States has been, is now, and will always be (until the stone age arrives) THE terrorist state in the world.

  9. Bruce Patin says

    The 9/11 families started the 9/11 truth movement when they realized that Al Qaeda had nothing to do with it.

  10. ArcAngel says

    Decent report.
    Only comment is on the “off the topic” sentence, concerning Crimea…
    “It reminds one of 2014 when the Russian MoD similarly refused to acknowledge soldiers who had taken over the Simferopol International Airport in Crimea. A week later the entire peninsula was Russian.”
    If the Russians had not shown up at Simferopol International AP, which was ALREADY in the hands of the free CRIMEANS (who were about to be slaughtered), it would have been ANOTHER disgusting Ukie orchestrated blood bath, this time with Crimean’s.
    Nice try MM.
    God Bless Mother Russia and the MoD.

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