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The Russian destroyer Smetlivy.

A Russian warship fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel

By Hanna Kozlowska

Russia says it fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel to avoid a collision in the Aegean Sea on Sunday (Dec. 13). The incident comes as tensions between the two countries are high after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane last month, and more broadly, over the conflict in Syria.

The Russian ministry of defense said one of the country’s destroyers, Smetlivy, was forced to fire small arms at an unidentified Turkish fishing boat, after it failed to respond to warnings. The vessel quickly turned away after coming under fire, passing within 1600 feet (500 m) of the Russian warship, without making contact. Turkey has not yet commented on the incident.

The rocky period in Russian-Turkish relations started in late November, when Turkey downed a Russian jet for allegedly violating its airspace, an event Russian President Vladimir Putin described as a ”stab in the back.” Turkey refused to apologize, and Russia introduced sanctions against the country, including a ban on imports and travel. Last Sunday (Dec. 6), Turkish media published an image of a Russian serviceman holding a rocket launcher while standing on the landing deck of a ship that was passing through the Bosphorus through Istanbul.

Turkey called this a provocation, and, on Friday, the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned that the country’s patience with Moscow was “not unlimited” and that Russia was using “every opportunity” to punish Turkey for the plane incident. One of Turkey’s options for retaliation is blocking its crucial Bosphorus and Dardanelles waterways for Russian vessels, experts say.

Turkey blames Russia for supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.