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Russia demands arrest of Turkmen rebel over pilot's death

Moscow calls on Turkey for immediate action after rebel named Alparslan Celik said pilot's death was revenge for bombing in Syria
Turkey shot down the Russian jet it says violated its airspace (AFP)

Moscow has called on Ankara to arrest a Turkmen rebel it claims killed the pilot of the Russian jet downed by Turkey last month on the Syrian border. 

The demand on Wednesday came after a man named Alparslan Celik said the death was "revenge" for Russian bombing of Turkmen rebels in northern Syria. 

"We demand that the Turkish authorities take immediate steps to apprehend Alparslan Celik and his accomplices and bring them to justice for the murder of the Russian pilot," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Wednesday. 

In an interview published Sunday in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Celik - a Turkmen rebel and citizen of Turkey - said that his "conscience cannot be bothered by a person who threw bombs at Turkmen civilians every day".

"Revenge is the most natural right," Celik said.

Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a bitter row over the downing of the Su-24 jet on 24 November, with the Kremlin imposing a raft of economic sanctions against Turkey.

Both pilots of the downed Su-24 jet ejected and parachuted to the ground on the Syrian side of the border, but one was killed by gunfire from the ground.

Zakharova said that the publication of Celik's comments had angered and surprised Moscow, and accused the Hurriyet outlet of being a "platform where terrorists and murderers brag about their crimes and spread hate of Russia and the Russian people through nationalist ideology".

She added that Celik's comments constituted an admission of his "direct involvement in the murder of the Russian pilot".

Turkish authorities have accused Russia of "ethnic cleansing" in Syria, targeting the Turkmen and Sunni population that oppose the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's long-time ally. 

Turkey says the Russian jet strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, while Moscow insisted it did not cross over from Syria and accused Ankara of a planned provocation.

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