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Kremlin Believes Turkey to Ensure Russian Diplomats Safety Amid Threats to Ambassador

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Kremlin believes that Turkey will do its best to guarantee the safety of Russian diplomats and every Russian staying in the country, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, commenting on threats targeting the Russian ambassador to Ankara.

"We have no doubt that the Turkish side will implement all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the Russian ambassador and all the staffers, every staffer of Russian companies and Russian diplomatic institutions located in Turkey, in compliance with the Vienna Convention and in the spirit of our bilateral relations," Peskov told reporters.

He added that Russia and Turkey maintained close contact on the situation on Idlib at the level of presidents, defence ministries and experts.

Russian Ambassador to Ankara Alexei Yerkhov said on Thursday he was seeing an increase in anti-Russian sentiment on Turkish social media, adding that he had faced direct threats, amid heightened tensions in Syria's Idlib.

According to a spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkey is making every possible effort to ensure the safety of Russian diplomats amid threats targeting Russian Ambassador to Ankara Alexei Yerkhov.

"The relevant agencies are implementing all the necessary measures 24/7 to ensure the safety of the Russian Embassy in Ankara and all the consular buildings in our country, as well as of diplomats and their families. All notices and requests that the Russian Embassy in Ankara submits to our ministry regarding the safety of its offices or diplomats are studied thoroughly and promptly passed to the relevant agencies," the spokesperson said.

Heightened Security at Russian Embassy in Ankara

Turkish authorities have taken additional security measures to protect the Russian embassy in Ankara after Ambassador Alexei Yerkhov said that he had faced threats as part of growing anti-Russian sentiment in Turkey over the escalation of violence in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, embassy Spokeswoman Irina Kasimova said.

"The situation has worsened recently and because of this, at our request, the Turkish authorities have taken additional security measures," Kasimova said.

The spokeswoman added that while social media threats are unlikely to result in any action, the necessary steps were taken to bolster security measures at the embassy.

Escalation of Tensions in Idlib

Tensions in Idlib, one of Syria’s four de-escalation zones, intensified on 3 February, after the Turkish Defence Ministry said seven Turkish military personnel and a civilian died after the Syrian Armed Forces shelled a Turkish observation post in the province. On Monday, another attack by Syrian forces killed five Turkish troops and injured five more, according to the Defence Ministry.

Ankara has since conducted a number of operations on Syrian government targets in Idlib. On Friday, the Defence Ministry stated that a further 63 Syrian troops had either been killed or captured.

Idlib is the only de-escalation zone not under the control of the Syrian government, as members of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group* captured areas of the province. Syria's de-escalation zones were created by representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey during talks in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) in May 2017.

*Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) is a terrorist group banned in Russia