By Maria Panina
Russia has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of involvement in illegal oil trading with Islamic State jihadists, ratcheting up the heat in a dispute over Ankara's downing of one of Moscow's warplanes.
The inflammatory allegations – the latest in a ferocious war of words – came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had agreed to meet his Turkish counterpart for the first high-level face-to-face talks since the incident last week.
Erdogan responded by accusing Russia of "slander".
Ties between NATO member Turkey and Russia have been strained since Ankara shot down the jet on its border with Syria on November 24, with Russian President Vladimir Putin already accusing Ankara of downing the jet to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory.
But the defence ministry accusations against Erdogan are the first implicating the Turkish strongman directly, as the Kremlin refuses to let the pressure drop after slapping economic sanctions on Ankara.
"The main consumer of this oil stolen from its legitimate owners Syria and Iraq is Turkey," deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists at a packed briefing.
"According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, president Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business."
Erdogan had dismissed earlier Russian claims that Ankara is involved in the illegal oil trade with jihadist groups, including IS, in Syria and Iraq, insisting he would resign if allegations were proved true.
The briefing, which did not take any questions, broadcast satellite images of oil trucks on a huge screen but did not provide any specific data on how Erdogan is tied to the activities.
Antonov pointed the finger at the recent appointment of Erdogan's son-in-law Berat Albayrak as energy minister and alleged that the president's son runs one of the country's main energy companies.
"What a fantastic family business," he said, claiming that "terrorists" in Syria made some US$2 billion each year out of the illegal oil trade.
But Erdogan angrily rejected the allegations.
"No one has a right to engage in slander against Turkey by saying that Turkey is buying oil from Daesh (IS)," he said on a visit to Qatar.
Turkey and Russia are close economic partners, with Moscow the main supplier of oil and gas to the energy-poor country.
But they are rival players in the war in Syria, with Ankara part of a US-led coalition against IS that is opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Moscow has launched a bombing campaign at the request of the Damascus regime.