December 02, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference during a meeting with Romania's President at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest on April 1, 2015.
Speaking to dozens of foreign military attaches and hundreds of reporters in Moscow, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia has evidence showing that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family were linked to the ISIS oil trade.
"President Erdogan and his family are involved in this criminal business," Antonov said. "We know the price of Erdogan's words... Turkish leaders won't step down and they won't acknowledge anything even if their faces are smeared with the stolen oil."
Antonov claimed that ISIS militants make $2 billion a year from the illegal oil trade. Earlier estimates from the American-backed coalition claim ISIS was making $3 million every day off the black market for oil.
Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff said Russian airstrikes on the ISIS oil infrastructure in Syria had halved the militants' profits.
The defense ministry officials showed the journalists what they said were satellite images depicting thousands of trucks carrying oil from ISIS-occupied areas in Syria and Iraq into Turkey. They did not, however, provide any evidence to back up the claims of personal involvement of Erdogan and his family in the illegal oil trade.
The Turkish president has denied Turkey's involvement in oil trade with the ISIS, and said repeatedly that he would resign if Russia proves its accusations.
In a speech Wednesday at Qatar University, the Turkish leader railed against the accusations.
"No one has the right to make such a slander as to suggest that Turkey buys Daesh's oil. Turkey has not lost its moral values as to buy oil from a terror organization," Erdogan said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, shortly after the Russian Defense Ministry made the claims. "Those who make such slanderous claims are obliged to prove them. If they do I would not remain on the presidential seat for one minute. But those who make the claim must also give up their seat if they can't prove it."
Meanwhile, in Cyprus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he would agree to meet with his Turkish counterpart this week to hear Turkey's explanations on the downing of the Russian air force jet. Lavrov said he would meet Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting of foreign ministers in Belgrade, the Serbian capital.
"We will meet with the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, we will hear what he has to say," Lavrov said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart in Nicosia.
Lavrov said he spoke to Cavusoglu the day after the Russian aircraft was shot down, but heard only what Turkey had already stated publicly and "just some excuses."
The meeting could offer a way to de-escalate a growing crisis between Russia and Turkey.
Turkey insists the Russian plane violated its airspace despite numerous warnings it issued to the Russian pilots and has said it won't apologize for the downing, which killed a Russian pilot. A Russian marine also died trying to retrieve a second pilot.
Russia claims Turkey shot down its plane to protect what President Vladimir Putin has described as Turkish profiteering from the ISIS oil trade. Russia has imposed sanctions against Turkish products in retaliation for the downing.
Lavrov said his country's aim is to ensure that the "overflow" of terrorist threats in Turkey don't make their way into Russia.
At the climate summit in Paris this week, President Obama met on the sidelines with Putin in an attempt to deescalate the conflict between Turkey and Russia.