The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of profiting from illegal shipments of oil by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria.
“The main consumer of oil stolen from legitimate owners in Syria and Iraq is Turkey. Top political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told a press briefing.
Ties between Moscow and Ankara worsened drastically after Turkey downed last week a Russian Su-24 jet for alleged violation of Turkish air space. Russia insisted that the jet stayed over the Syrian territory during the whole flight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the downing “a stab in the back” and accused Turkey of patronizing illegal oil exports from areas occupied by terrorist groups.
On Monday, Erdogan said he would be ready to resign if Russia managed to prove the allegations.
“If such a thing is proven, the nobility of our nation would require that I would not stay in office,” Erdogan was quoted by the state-run Anadolu Agency as saying on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change conference held in Paris.
Antonov noted that Erdogan’s resignation is not Russia’s goal. “This is up to the Turkish people to decide,” he said, adding that Moscow’s aim is to block the sources of financing of terrorism.
“In order to defeat the IS, we need to deliver a powerful, destructive blow to its financing sources,” Antonov said.
Financial flows from the sale of oil products from Syria not only enriched top military and political leaders of Turkey, but also financed members recruitment as well as arms and munitions purchase of terrorists in Syria, Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said at the press briefing.
“Last week alone, up to 2,000 militants, over 120 tons of munitions and 250 automobiles were transferred from Turkey to the IS and Al-Nusra groups in Syria,” said Mizintsev.
Antonov added that the IS made some 2 billion U.S. dollars a year mainly from smuggling oil.
Starting from Sept. 30, Russia’s air campaign in Syria has destroyed 32 oil processing complexes, 11 oil refineries, 23 oil pumping stations and 1,080 oil tank trucks, which slashed profits of terrorists from illegal oil exports from 3 millon dollars to 1.5 million on a daily basis, Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told the briefing.