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Feb 4, 12:58 PM EST

Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria


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MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian military said Thursday that it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syrian taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement.

He said these were among growing signs of "hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.

"Maybe, in peacetime, these facts would indicate the expectation of trade turnover growth between the neighboring countries," Konashenkov said. "However, during wartime, in such a way the transport infrastructure is preparing on the eve of military intervention."

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry would have no immediate comment.

Konashenkov's accusations came a day after Russia accused Turkey of violating an international treaty by barring a previously arranged surveillance flight over Turkish territory adjacent to Syria and also over air bases used by NATO warplanes. The Treaty on Open Skies allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of its three dozen participants, which include the U.S., Russia and Turkey.

The Russian military regards this "as a dangerous precedent and an attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border," the spokesman said.

He said Russia has extensive intelligence sources in the Middle East, so if Turkey thinks that the prohibition of the observer flight will allow it to hide something, "it is unprofessional."

The Turkish official declined comment on the Russian claims. The official could not be named in line with government rules that bar officials from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.

Ties between the two countries remain extremely tense following Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane at the border with Syria in November.

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