Turkey will press on with S-400 activation despite COVID-19 delay – official

Turkey has delayed activation of its new S-400 missile defence systems because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it will turn them on as planned, Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Thursday.

"There has been a delay because of the coronavirus but it will move forward as it was planned," Daily Sabah quoted Kalın as saying during an online meeting hosted by the Atlantic Council.

Kalın’s comments mark the first official acknowledgement that Turkey has delayed its plan to activate the Russian-built systems in April. Earlier in the month, a government source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the pandemic had delayed the systems’ activation.

The reiteration of Ankara’s plans to activate the Russian-made systems may quash speculation that the S-400s would remain offline as Erdoğan attempts to court his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, into providing support for Turkey, which is struggling to overcome the economic impact of COVID-19.

The United States stringently opposed the purchase of S-400s, which NATO officials fear could leave allied defence systems exposed to Russian subterfuge.