Russia won’t object if Turkey does not activate S-400s

Relations between Ankara and Moscow have cooled since the killing of Turkish soldiers in a government attack in Idlib

Russia would have no objections if Turkey decides to keep the S-400 missile systems in a warehouse and not activate it, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday in televised remarks.

“It is entirely the buyer’s decision to use the system or not,” Alexei Yerkhov, the Russian Ambassador to Ankara, told CNNTurk. “These systems now belong to Turkey. [Activation] is completely up to Turkey. It is like a car that you own. You can either drive it to the beach, or keep it in your garage.”

Yerkhov’s remarks came as Turkish officials indefinitely suspended the activation of Russian-made S-400 systems in April, saying that the coronavirus crisis was impeding the efforts to set it up.

It was a major shift for Ankara, where officials had long insisted they would press along with their plans and deploy the systems to protect Turkish airspace in April.

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Washington views a NΑΤΟ ally buying Russian arms as a security threat, and Ankara’s purchase of the $2.5bn missile systems already had major repercussions. Last year, the US ejected Turkey from the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet program and suspended the delivery of already purchased aircraft.

Ibrahim Kalin, a top adviser to the Turkish president, said later that the systems would still be activated, even though the US Congress had been threatening sanctions against Ankara and has a bill to that effect.

Read more: Middle East Eye