(CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down Thursday on accusing Turkey of complicity with terrorists and benefitting from the trade of oil stolen by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, The State Department again defended Turkey’s president against allegations of collusion with ISIS.
Delivering an annual state of the nation address to lawmakers, Putin said his government knows “who it is that profits in Turkey by letting terrorists sell the oil they stole.”
“The terrorists use this money to recruit new members, to plan new terrorist attacks against our people, people of France, Mali and other countries,” he said.
An ongoing war of words was sparked by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane along the Turkey-Syria border in disputed circumstances. One of two pilots was shot dead by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels as he descended by parachute, and a Russian marine was also killed by rebels during a mission to rescue the two.
Russian state media have reported on suspicions that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the downing of the Su-24 plane to retaliate for Russian bombing of tankers transporting oil stolen by ISIS to Turkey – an illicit trade which Russia’s deputy defense minister this week alleged involves Erdogan and his family.
“According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business,” Anatoly Antonov told journalists at the defense ministry in Moscow on Wednesday.
Journalists were shown satellite imagery and video clips purporting to show oil tankers crossing into Turkey from ISIS-held territory.
Putin did not name Erdogan by name, but lashed out against “the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.”
“We will never forget their collusion with terrorists,” he said. “We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change.”
Putin said he could not understanding what drove the Turks to act the way they did.
“Only Allah only knows why they did it, I guess” he said. “I guess Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by stripping it of their sanity.”
Erdogan responded to Antonov’s earlier allegations by saying “no one has a right to engage in slander against Turkey, by saying that Turkey is buying oil from [ISIS].”
Meanwhile for the second consecutive day, State Department spokesman Mark Toner at Thursday’s daily press briefing defended Turkey and Erdogan against the allegations.
“We reject any allegations that the president or his family is complicit in illegal oil trading with ISIL,” he said in response to questions about reports implicating Erdogan and his son.
“We reject it outright, and frankly, we question some of these allegations that have been leveled against the family,” Toner said.
A day earlier, he said that Russian allegations that the Turkish government was complicit in illegal oil trading with ISIS were “just not true.”
Toner conceded that oil stolen by ISIS was being smuggled along established routes, some of which “probably lead to parts of Turkey.”
But he said the U.S. was confident that Turkey – “a NATO ally and a trusted partner” – was working to address the threat along its border.
Asked by a Russian reporter about the satellite images of oil tankers, Toner said he did not want to get into “tit-for-tat talking about these satellite photos” or “speak to the credibility of your satellite imagery from this podium.”