NEW DELHI: Russia, Turkey and their respective allies have been locked in a war of words that have sent tensions soaring following the downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkey-Syria border on Tuesday morning. The Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane was shot down for violating Turkish airspace, Turkish officials said, with the move angering Russia as President Vladimir Putin likened it to being “stabbed in the back.”

"Today's loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else,” Putin said in a televised address. "Our plane was shot down over the territory of Syria by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet. It fell in Syrian territory four kilometres from the border with Turkey. Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey."

Turkey opposes Russian involvement in the region, with accounts from the country maintaining that Russian airstrikes in Syria -- which began in September -- are mainly targeting rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime -- Moscow’s ally. The US-led coalition is opposed to the Syrian regime led by Bashar-al Assad, with a key motive for involvement being toppling the current government. Russia, on its part, states that its airstrikes are targeting ISIL and al-Nusra Front. However, days before the downing of the Russian jet, reports indicated a change in strategy following the brutal Paris attacks, where the US-led coalition and Russia were set to work together, with Assad figuring in the plans to defeat the Islamic State.

The incident, therefore, has raised questions about the move toward cooperation, as NATO has stuck by its ally. The alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, "We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally."

Fellow NATO member, the United States, also backed Turkey's right to defend its territory. President Barack Obama said although the US did not have enough information to arrive at conclusions about the incident, confrontations such as this one could be avoided if Russia stopped attacking "moderate" Syrian rebels. "This points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries," Obama said.

Turkey defended its move to shoot down the plane, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying that the country had a duty to act against violations of its borders. "Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders," Davutoglu said in Ankara. "Turkey will not hesitate to take all steps to protect the country's security."

Russia maintains that it did not violate Turkey’s airspace.

Following the incident, Russia’s defence ministry suspended military cooperation with Turkey and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cancelled a planned trip to Turkey on Wednesday. Russia also warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey, saying it was unsafe to do so. A Russian warship was deployed to the coastline near where the plane crashed.

On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hit out at Turkey for having ‘direct financial interest’ in the oil trade with Islamic State. “Turkey’s actions are de facto protection of Islamic State,” Medvedev said, “This is no surprise, considering the information we have about direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS.”

“The reckless and criminal actions of the Turkish authorities… have caused a dangerous escalation of relations between Russia and NATO, which cannot be justified by any interest, including protection of state borders,” the Russian PM added.