Turkish columnist accuses Russian journalists of espionage

The two Russian journalists who were detained in Turkey last week over unauthorised filming at a drone production facility were spies who botched their task, Yeni Şafak columnist Mehmet Şeker wrote on Wednesday.

Russian NTV’s reporter Alexei Petrushko and cameraman Ivan Malyshkin were taken into police custody on Thursday, when they were found filming near the facilities of Turkey’s top drone producer, Baykar, near Istanbul.

The channel stood up for his “staff,” who “claimed they were journalists” Şeker wrote, as he questioned whether they had been “industrial spies.”

Turkey released both men on Monday, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Pesko expressed hopes that the journalists would be let go as soon as possible.

“We hope through dialogue we will be able to resolve this incident,” Peskov said.

Şeker pointed to reports of Turkey’s combat drones devastating Russia’s defence systems during the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, implying this was the motivation behind the “mission” of the two men.

Turkey’s Baykar produced Bayraktar TB2 drones that were used in the conflict.

The attempt by the Russian Foreign Ministry to “sweet talk its way out” of the incident by noting the men were journalists and that they expected Turkey’s help is not very convincing, according to the Yeni Şafak journalist.

“They weren’t going to say they’re spies now, were they?” Şeker wrote. “They weren’t going to say they were sent because they wanted more information on Turkey’s unmanned and combat drones.”