Alparslan Celik, alleged killer of Russian pilot, arrested by Turkish authorities

by omouggos

On Thursday Alparslan Çelik was arrested while eating at a restaurant in the Turkish city of İzmir.[1] He and 13 others were apparently detained after someone called the police saying that they were armed with guns in the restaurant.

Çelik is a member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and its paramilitary wing the Grey Wolves.[2] He also commanded a Turkmen rebel group in Syria and is notorious for allegedly killing Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov following the downing of the latter’s Su-24 by Turkish F-16 jets.

Since the downing of the Su-24 in November, Russian-Turkish relations have soured. Russia has levied economic sanctions on Turkey and there now exists palpable military tensions between the two nations.

Russian officials have recently stated their willingness to normalize relations with Turkey as long as the latter takes “responsibility for downing our plane,”[3] which includes the Turks handing Çelik over to them.[4] With the timing of these events, one wonders whether Çelik was arrested so as to be handed over to the Russians in an attempt to diffuse the acrimony between the two nations?

Such a scenario may not be far fetched as Turkey’s economy is suffering from high inflation and rising unemployment.[5] Furthermore, Turkey’s important tourism sector is projected to contract by up to $12 billion in 2016, partly due to Russian sanctions and increased instability from PKK and ISIL terrorist attacks.[6]

As such to help ameliorate this poor economic situation and to improve relations with Russia, it is reasonable for Turkey to give up Çelik in return for an easing of Russians sanctions, which would undoubtedly provide a boost to the Turkish economy, and possibly other concessions vis-à-vis the Syrian Civil War.

President Erdoğan may have come to his senses that provoking the Russian bear was not a move beneficial to him and that it is now time improve relations. However, Erdoğan is also obdurate enough to continue, possibly even intensify, his geopolitical stand off with Russia.

It is also possible that Çelik has been arrested to protect him from the Russians. I have already posted about how the Russians are on the hunt for Çelik[7], and if his life is indeed in danger then possibly the easiest way to keep him safe from Russian operative may be to place him under Turkish custody. Being in prison may make it more difficult for such operatives to get at him.

Although Çelik’s arrest may be a trivial firearms violation, it could also have broader implications related to Russian-Turkish geopolitical relations, so stay tuned to further developments.

O Mouggos



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[7] See my previous post Russia on the hunt for the killer of downed pilot