RUSSIA has launched a series of deadly strikes against Syrian rebel-held border crossings with Turkey, in a "revenge" attack for the downing of one if its jets on Tuesday morning.
Syrian rebels reported that Russian forces were pounding areas in Syria's Latakia province, unleashing a wave of airstrikes on mountains near where the Su-24 warplane was shot down.
Jahed Ahmad, a spokesman for a militia brigade in the region, said the Russians were taking "revenge" for the plane's downing by Turkey, a key backer of the rebels in the area.
Speaking from inside Syria, he claimed Russian jets were providing cover for advancing Syrian ground forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies.
But Turkey's state-run news agency and Syrian activists claimed the airstrikes, on Wednesday, had hit an aid convoy, killing seven and wounding 10.
In a further sign of Vladimir Putin's anger at the incident, which left one Russian pilot dead, Moscow announced plans to deploy state-of-the art air defence missile systems in Syria.
Kremlin officials described the incident as a "planned provocation" and have vowed a tough response.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey.”
Speaking on a trip to the Ural mountains city of Nizhny Tagil, Putin added: “I hope that this, along with other measures that we are taking, will be enough to ensure [the safety] of our flights.”
The S-400 missile systems will be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in Latakia, about 30 miles south of the border with Turkey.
APA Turkish army truck loaded with a self-propelled gun heading to the Syrian border
GETTYA Turkmen soldier whose militia group is under attack from Russia
The systems have a range up to 250 miles and are capable of targeting Turkish jets with deadly precision.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also confirmed the Russian missile cruiser Moskva has moved closer to shore to protect aircraft flying missions near Syria's border with Turkey, using its long-range Fort air defence system.
At a meeting with military officials, he said: "It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft."
He added that from now on all Russian bombers would be escorted by fighters on their combat missions in Syria.