Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria

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Russian and Turkish officials engaged in a war of words on Thursday as Moscow's Defense Ministry accused Turkey of planning a military invasion of Syria. 
 
"The Russian Defence Ministry registers a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish Armed Forces for active actions on the territory of Syria," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
 
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Russia said that it was supposed to conduct an observation flight of the Turkey-Syria border this week and received preliminary approval from Turkey but was refused by the Turkish Defense Ministry on Wednesday.
 
Russia claimed that it was an "attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border" and that Russian officials have "reasonable grounds to suspect intensive preparation of Turkey for a military invasion" of Syria.
 
Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that "agreement could not be reached on the mission plan" for the Russian flight, which Kremlin officials said should be allowed under an international treaty.
 
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Thursday that those helping support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad are guilty of war crimes. Russia has been a longtime supporter of the Assad regime and maintains a naval facility in Tartus, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.
 
"The root cause of this problem is the war crimes committed by the Syrian regime, and the war crimes committed by Daesh, by ISIS," Davutoglu said on the sidelines of a conference in London, according to Reuters.

"Those who are helping the Assad regime are committing the same war crimes. I am especially telling this today because Aleppo is under heavy attack by Russian airplanes," he added, referring to Russian airstrikes in a Syrian town under rebel control.

Turkish and Russian officials on Thursday also exchanged statements on allegations Russia had violated Turkish airspace. In November, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said entered its airspace near Syria.