Moscow, Dec 2: Russia's defence ministry today accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of involvement in illegal oil trade with Islamic State jihadists, as a dispute rages over Ankara's downing of one of Moscow's warplanes.
"The main consumer of this oil stolen from its legitimate owners Syria and Iraq is Turkey. According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business," deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists.
Ties between Turkey and Russia have shattered after Ankara shot down the jet on its border with Syria last Tuesday, with President Vladimir Putin accusing Ankara of downing the plane "to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory".
Erdogan has rubbished earlier Russian claims that Turkey is involved in the illegal oil trade with groups, including IS, in Syria and Iraq, insisting he would resign if allegations were proved true.
"Today we are presenting only part of the facts in our possession, that there is a unified team of bandits and the Turkish elite working in the region to steal oil from its neighbours," Antonov said at the packed press conference in the defence ministry.
"This oil enters the territory of Turkey in huge quantities, on an industrial scale along a living pipeline of thousands of oil tankers," he said.
Antonov claimed that "terrorists in Syria" earned $2 billion from the illegal oil trade and "that is why IS so protects its thieving oil extraction infrastructure in Syria and Iraq."