After a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey’s air force, the two country’s governments are locked in a war of words. Things are similar online.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it a “planned provocation”, Russian President Vladimir Putin a “stab in the back”.
The drastic words come after a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane. Turkey says it issued numerous warnings that the Russian aircraft had violated Turkish airspace, while the surviving Russian pilot says he received no such warnings.
Both expressions are now hashtags, both in Russian and in English, as social media users express their opinion over the shooting down of the plane on Tuesday (24.11.2015). In Russia, another hashtag, #ТурцияЗаИГИЛ (“Turkey for IS”) has also appeared, accusing the Turkish government of supporting the self-styled “Islamic State” terror group.
In a typical example from Russia, Vera Kusnetsova writes below this illustration: “The Turkish government unmasks itself.”
The tweet resembles an official comment from Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. “Turkey’s actions are de facto protection of Islamic State.”
Russia’s foreign minister, meanwhile, advised citizens not to travel to Turkey, where the terror threat is on the rise. Turkey is among Russia’s favorite vacation destinations, yet Twitter users have begun something of an anti-travel solidarity campaign under a hashtag that reads “Not going to Turkey.”
“Relax at home,” they write.
Prominent blogger and Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny opted for a very different message with this tweet of a political cartoon showing a Turkish missile severing the nose of the Russian president, implying he doesn’t tell the truth.
When it comes to Russia’s air campaign in Syria, the majority of Russian-language social media users are silent, however – even if the bombs at times hit Syria’s opposition forces and civilians.
Another factor influencing social media sentiment in Russia is the well-documented phenomenon of state-financed “trolling,” where social media users specifically propagate a message on behalf of the government.
Offline, Moscow saw protests and street placards that reflected the sentiment online. Here, a Turkish journalists posts an image of various posters near the Turkish embassy, one of which asks, “Are you fighting for or against IS?”
On Wednesday, demonstrators in Moscow pelted the Turkish embassy with rocks and eggs. Moscow police are said to have demanded that the protestors disperse but did not initially intervene, according to the AFP. Photos and videos from the protest spreads quickly on Twitter. Here, Philipp Kireev writes that “Windowpanes were broken out with rocks.”
Russia additionally plans to more strictly control the import of food goods from Turkey. Russia’s agriculture minister, Alexander Tkachyov, justified the decision due to “repeated violations” of Russian norms by Turkish manufacturers.
This decision, however, largely resulted in confusion on Twitter. Asks Sergei Soshtenko: “Does that mean that earlier, we were nourishing ourselves on substandard Turkish products?”
In Turkey, by comparison, the rhetoric isn’t as charged. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, for example, “We have no intention of escalating this incident.”
Online, Turkish social media users had plenty to say about the shooting down of the Russian warplane.
Writes Evren Haspolat: “Pandora’s box is now open. You know what Turkey’s going to get as a result. Still, behaving that way is simply unscrupulous.”
Compared to Russian tweets, the majority of which are anti-Turkey in nature and adhere to the Russian government’s public view, tweets from Turkey a bit more nuanced. The Turkish government continually repeats that the Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace.
Writes Emrah Turan: “Russia cannot begin a war with Turkey. Because there’s never a winner in a war. Russia violated Turkish airspace without thinking about the consequences, and someone should just say STOP.”
Other users in Turkey reference the international regulations governing sovereign airspace. Here, Derya Deniz even hijacks the Russian hashtag “Turkey for IS” to convey this message in English.
On Wednesday, the news agency DHA publicized a recording that is said to be the audio transmissions from the Turkish pilot to his Russian counterpart.
Turkey announced shortly thereafter that he Russian pilot had been warned numerous times.
Russia asserts, however, that there was neither a warning nor contact between the Turkish and Russian pilots. The Russian pilot who survived said the same in a television interview.