The Russian Federal Service of Military‑Technical Cooperation refuted media reports claiming that Turkey plans to expel Russian technical experts accompanying the contract on the S-400 missile system, in order to satisfy a US demand to end the presence of Russian personnel.
“The return of Russian technical experts who are in Turkey in connection with the S-400 contract will be carried out in accordance with the previously approved schedule,” the defense cooperation agency’s spokeswoman, Valeria Reshetnikova, told Sputnik.
Earlier, Bloomberg reported that Turkey will expel Russian military technicians helping it operate the S-400 missile defense system but will not abandon the deal altogether, under growing US pressure.
Russia delivered its first of four S-400 missiles to Turkey in July 2019 as part of a $2.5 billion deal much to the dismay of the Trump administration. In response, the US ousted Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program putting NATO allies in a tense situation.
“We’ve sent many technicians for training. The Russian military experts won’t stay in Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu said. “The S-400s will be under our 100% control,” Çavusoglu reemphasized. “It is not possible to accept calls from another country to ‘not use’ them.”
Washington has repeatedly called Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 system a threat to NATO which could even expose its defenses and capabilities, especially of the F-35 stealth jets.
The US had threatened Turkey against the S-400 deal prior to the delivery of the Russian missile defense system in 2019. The US had repeatedly warned that Turkey, being a NATO member, was not permitted to acquire weapons from a non-NATO country.
While imposing sanctions, the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had stated that Turkey was cautioned various times against its procurement of the S-400 system as it “would endanger the security of US military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector”.
The Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) is one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world and many experts have claimed that it is capable of detecting, tracking and shooting down the best of the jets including the F-35s.
With Inputs from Sputnik and Bloomberg