Russia puts sole blame on Israel for downing warplane

Russia puts sole blame on Israel for downing warplane
2 min read
23 September, 2018
Fifteen people died earlier this week when Syrian regime forces mistook a Russian warplane for an Israeli jet and shot it down.
Putin listening to his defence minister Sergei Shogu in Kubinka, Russia [Getty]

Moscow on Sunday placed sole blame on Israel for causing the Syrian regime to down a Russian warplane earlier this week, accusing Tel Aviv of "criminal negligence". 

Syrian regime forces mistook the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane for an Israeli jet and shot it down Monday, killing all 15 people aboard. While the Russian military initially blamed the plane's loss on Israel, President Vladimir Putin later attributed it to "a chain of tragic, fatal circumstances".

The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday presented its latest findings on the Il-20's downing, laying the blame squarely on Israel.

"We believe that the Israeli Air Force and those who were making decisions about these actions are fully to blame for the tragedy that happened to the Russian Il-20 plane," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Russia has provided key air support to President Bashar Assad's forces since 2015, while Israel has carried out dozens of strikes against Iran-linked forces. Israeli military officials have previously praised the hotline's effectiveness.

But Konashenkov on Sunday accused Israel of using the hotline to mislead Russia about its plans. He said the Russians were unable to get the Il-20 to a safe place because an Israeli duty officer had misled them, telling them of an Israeli operation in northern Syria while the jets were actually in Latakia, in the country's west.

Konashenkov said an Israeli fighter jet flying over Syria's Mediterranean coast shortly before the downing deliberately used the Russian plane as a shield, reflecting "either lack of professionalism or criminal negligence".

He also complained that the Israelis over the years have waited until the last minute to notify Russia of their operations, endangering Russian aircraft. He described Israel's actions as "a highly ungrateful response to everything that Russia has done for the State of Israel recently".

He referred to efforts by Russia to rein in Iran-backed forces in Syria, including a deal struck in July to keep such fighters 53 miles from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

An Israeli military delegation travelled to Moscow on Thursday to express sorrow over the deaths and to share information with Russian counterparts on the incident.

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