Update: 5:32 pm EST Wednesday
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said one of the pilots was rescued and is safe, CNN reports. The other pilot, Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, was confirmed dead along with a Russian marine who was killed during a search and rescue mission.
Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin, the co-pilot who survived, reportedly stated Turkey issued no warnings before shooting the plane down. Turkey refutes this assertion and released a tape that apparently features a recording of the warning it gave to the pilots before engaging.
Correspondingly, Russia announced it's sending anti-aircraft missiles to Hmeymim air base in Syria -- less than 30 miles away from Turkey.
Russia's foreign minister reportedly said the downing of the Russian warplane was a "planned provocation." Tensions are very high.
Update: 3:34 pm EST
There are conflicting reports about whether or not the pilots are dead, according to Reuters.
Turkmen rebel forces in Syria said they shot and killed both pilots as they came down. The Russian military said both are dead, but one was killed during a rescue operation. Meanwhile, a Turkish official reportedly claimed it's "a possibility" one of the pilots is still alive.
Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Syrian border for allegedly violating its airspace, BBC News reports.
Russia maintains the military aircraft was flying over Syrian territory, while Turkey contends it issued several warnings before shooting it down.
The crew apparently ejected before the aircraft crashed and might be alive.
BREAKING: Two Russian pilots from jet downed near Syrian border believed to be alive: Turkish official — Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 24, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly said,
This goes beyond the normal struggle against terrorism. This was a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists.
In saying this, Putin essentially accused Turkey of financing and supporting ISIS.
This is one of the most serious and hostile encounters between Russia and a NATO member country in recent memory, with potentially disastrous consequences.
#Turkey's downing of Russian jet first time #NATO country fired on Soviet/#Russia military asset since 1953 says @gmfus (via @TerryMoran) — Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) November 24, 2015
As a NATO member country, Turkey is an important US ally. In theory, if Russia were to retaliate against Turkey, the US and other NATO member countries would be obliged to respond on its behalf. NATO was founded up the notion of collective defense.
This prompted fears and discussion of a potential "World War III." But this is highly unlikely. It's not in the interest of Russia, Turkey, the US or other NATO member countries for such a conflict to arise.
Russia habitually violates the airspace of NATO member states, particularly in the Baltics, Vox highlights.
In October, Russia violated Turkish airspace, and admitted to it.
These incursions have been viewed by many as intentional provocations. If Russia was acting deliberately by flying either in or too close to Turkey, it was playing a very dangerous game.
Hey guys this is not World War III. Neither NATO nor Russia cares that much about Syria-Turkey border zone air rights. — Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) November 24, 2015
Russian jets have been violating and buzzing against NATO airspace as a matter of course for well over a year. This may have been inevitable — Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) November 24, 2015
The Pentagon reportedly stated the US will continue to focus on ISIS and this incident is strictly between Turkey and Russia.
Pentagon: plane downing an incident between #Turkey and #Russia governments — Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) November 24, 2015
#Pentagon: "This is #Turkey and #Russia. We are focusing on #ISIL." #planeshotdown — Natasha Mozgovaya (@mozgovaya) November 24, 2015
NATO called an emergency meeting to address what occurred.
BREAKING: NATO will hold emergency meeting Tuesday in Brussels on downing of Russian plane by Turkey. — The Associated Press (@AP) November 24, 2015
While this is certainly a violent, awkward and seemingly avoidable incident, World War III does not appear to be on the horizon.
With that said, the Syria conflict is already extraordinarily complicated, and every country involved has separate interests.
This encounter between Russia and Turkey will certainly not help an already tumultuous and convoluted situation.
Citations: Turkey shoots down Russian warplane on Syria border (BBC News), Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Why it would happen and why it matters explained (Vox), Turkey Downs a Russian Jet and Twitter Immediately Declares World War III (Vanity Fair), Turkey downs Russian warplane near Syria border (Reuters)