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Body of Russian Pilot To Be Turned Over To Russia

A portrait of Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov lies among flowers outside the Russian Defense Ministry building in Moscow last week.

Ankara says it will shortly turn over to Moscow the body of the pilot killed when Turkey shot down a Russian jet last week.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the pilot's body was brought to the border province of Hatay "through Turkey's initiatives" early on November 29 and will be flown back to Russia. He said the local Orthodox church in Hatay performed religious rites for the pilot.

Turkey shot down the plane on November 24 after it briefly entered its airspace from Syria, ignoring several warnings.

The two pilots parachuted out of the plane but were shot at by Syrian rebels on the ground. One of the pilots, Oleg Peshkov, died.

Turkey's action drew strong reaction from Moscow and has led to a breakdown in relations between the two countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who condemned the incident as a "treacherous stab in the back", signed a decree on November 28, imposing a series of sanctions against Turkey.

On the same day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has refused Russian calls to apologize over the deadly incident, said that the episode had saddened him.

"We wish it hadn't happened as such, but unfortunately such a thing has happened. I hope that something like this doesn't occur again," he said in his most conciliatory comments since the jet's downing.

Putin's decree, posted on the Kremlin's website, spoke of the need to protect Russia's national security and Russian citizens "from criminal and other illegal activities."

In the document, Putin orders the government to prepare a list of goods, firms, and jobs that would be affected. Some of the measures announced have already been informally introduced.

"The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said hours before the decree was published.

A senior Turkish official told the Reuters news agency that the sanctions would only worsen the standoff between Moscow and Ankara.

Addressing his supporters in the western city of Balikesir on November 28, Erdogan warned that neither country should allow the situation to escalate and take a destructive form that would have "dire consequences in the future."

He also renewed his call for a "face to face" meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Paris climate talks next week.

Peskov said Putin was aware of Erdogan's request for a meeting, but gave no indication about whether it might take place. Peskov called the Turkish air force's behavior "absolute madness" and said Ankara's handling of the crisis resembled "theater of the absurd."

"Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind," Peskov told Russia's News on Saturday TV program, adding that the president was "mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP and AP
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