Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that there is a civil war in southern Turkey as the government in Ankara collaborates with extremists.
"Turkey's current leadership does not fight radicals as much as it collaborates with them," Putin said in a nationally televised show in which he answers questions from the Russian public.
In southern Turkey, "there is actually a civil war," Putin said. "The international community is trying not to notice it, but this is a fact. There is heavy weaponry: tanks, artillery."
He added that it is unsafe for Russians to visit Turkey and Egypt because of security concerns.
Russia and Turkey's traditionally warm relations have deteriorated as they chose to support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. Russia supports the Syrian government, whereas Turkey, which borders Syria, backs some rebel groups seeking to overthrow that government.
Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border in November and the pilot, who ejected, was reportedly killed by gunfire from a Turkic militant group.
Within its own country, Turkey is struggling with Kurdish groups that want to secede and form an independent state called Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, Kurdish groups in Syria, backed by the United States, are some of the main fighters against the terrorist groups Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
"Kurds are a very courageous people, even heroic," Putin said, adding that Russia will support their effort in Syria.
He described the Kurds as a "very serious force in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, especially in Syria."
"We see this and we will support them," Putin said.
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