Russia on Thursday accused Turkey of actively preparing to invade Syria, saying it had spotted troops and military equipment on the border with the war-torn country.

“We have serious grounds to suspect Turkey is in intensive preparations for an armed invasion of the territory of a sovereign state — the Syrian Arab Republic,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Ties between Moscow, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Ankara, which is a staunch backer of the opposition, have been in tatters since Turkey shot down a Russian bomber on the Syrian border in November.

Moscow’s claims came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking at an international aid conference for Syria in London, implicitly accused Russia of “war crimes” in the country.

Ankara said earlier Thursday that it had refused to allow a Russian reconnaissance plane to overfly its territory near Syria because of a disagreement over the flight plan.

Russia said Turkey had not given Moscow any clear explanation for the decision.

“We consider these Turkish actions to be a dangerous precedent and an attempt to conceal illegal military activities at the Syrian border,” the defence ministry said.

“Moreover, we are recording more and more signs of covert preparations by the Turkish armed forces for active action on Syrian territory,” it said, adding that Russia has ramped up reconnaissance in the Middle East.

“So if someone in Ankara believes that the cancellation of the flight by Russian monitors would allow (them) to hide something then this is unprofessional.”

The defence ministry, citing reconnaissance data, said Turkey had recently expanded a parking lot for heavy-duty trucks on the border as well two smaller parking lots in rebel-controlled Syria.

“Such sites are used to secure a quick movement of military columns containing ammunition and weapons to a theatre of operations as well as a fast transfer and evacuation of personnel,” it said.

Moscow said it had recorded plenty of such examples at the Syrian-Turkish border “including the presence of troops and military equipment”.

Russia also said it was surprised that representatives of Pentagon, NATO and human rights organisations in Syria did not issue any reaction.

The Turkish foreign ministry declined to immediately comment on the Russian claim.

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura announced Wednesday the suspension of peace talks to end Syria’s civil war as the West accused Moscow of seeking a military solution to the war and refusing to halt its strikes.

Following a request from Assad, Moscow launched a bombing campaign in Syria in September, saying it needed to target jihadists like the Islamic State group before they cross into Russia.

The Syrian opposition has been outraged at Moscow’s determination to press ahead with its bombing campaign during peace talks and accused Russia of targeting civilians.

  • Simple_Comment

    Turkey's action seems a preparation of national defense as part of national security after Russian planes repeated incursion of airspace after aircraft incident. Notion of invading Syria is Putin reversed psychology as known KGB top official. In contrary, apparently Russia is the one invading middle-east posing grave threats against Turkey and US led coalition by fielding dreadful S-400's, latest Russian jet fighters and ground troops in Syria. You can differentiate between two evils.

    • Bruce Barrett

      with all due respect – if Turkey put troops into Syria it will be a defacto act of war. They are seeing their plans in Syria fall apart and and now ( apparently) considering desperate interventionist measures – presumbaly supported by the key financer of terrorists in Syria, Saudi Arabia. Whether you agree with the presence and support of Russian military in Syria, they have valid justification to be there. Russia has a long standing relationship with Syria and was invited/requested to assist. And as for the 'dreadful' S400's, they are there to deter against future aerial aggression by Turkey. A move that would not have been necessary had Turkey not shot down the Su-24. Are Turkish pilots not familiar with escorting aircraft from their airspace?

  • John Allard

    "We consider these Turkish actions to be a dangerous precedent and an attempt to conceal illegal military activities at the Syrian border."

    Legally speaking, the Turks can deploy their forces within their borders how they see fit. The Russians seem to like to use legal language when it's not always applicable. Just like how Russia has the right to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers along its border with Ukraine. Is it helpful? No not really, but is it illegal? No, it's not.

    • Simple_Comment

      When Russian intruded Syrian civil war in favor of Assad is fully aware of consequences of involvement against US lead coalition and supported moderate Syrian fighters. Russia as a world power has every right to intervene in any conflict in the world which seems beneficial to national interest. When a world power is involved in any conflict in the world everything they do is legal per se. Russia intentional moved allowing Iranian armed forces with its supported terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in the battlefield has drawn Israle grave concern from sworn enemies operating along its border. By pretext, Iranian and terrorist groups can divert operation into Israel territory in huge force by surprise attack.