Russia’s Defense Ministry has reaffirmed its accusation that Israel was responsible for the downing of the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane close to Syria’s Latakia. On September 23, the department’s official spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov presented a by-the-minute account of what happened over Latakia based on radar data, Deutsche Welle reports.
“The presented objective data is evidence that the actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which led to the deaths of 15 Russian soldiers, indicate their lack of professionalism or, at least, criminal negligence,” Konashenkov said during a special briefing in Moscow.
According to the spokesman, Israel originally informed Russia that the strikes would be directed against targets in northern Syria, but in actual fact the attack was carried out in the Latakia province in western Syria.
“The misrepresentation by the Israeli officers concerning the region where the fighters would strike did not permit us to withdraw the Russian Il-20 aircraft to a safe region,” Konashenkov said, noting that Russia was notified about the attack only moments before it began.
“They did not specify the location of the Israeli F-16s,” the general added. He also claimed that the F-16s saw the Russian plane, remained in the same region as it for 10 minutes, and deliberately used it as protection against the Syrian anti-air defense systems.
“An Israeli pilot couldn’t have failed to understand that the effective reflective surface of the Il-20 significantly exceeds that of an F-16 fighter, and that the Russian plane would be a preferred target for a ground-to-air missile.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman emphasized that his country would continue its military operations in Syria despite the incident.
“We have made it quite clear that we will not allow Syria to become an advanced Iranian base against Israel. We will continue to act to prevent this. We have the necessary means and capabilities,” Lieberman said in a broadcast of the Israeli radio station Reshet Bet on September 23.
The Russian plane was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea by Syrian anti-air defense systems in the early morning hours of September 18. Moscow placed the blame on Israel, but Israel denied responsibility, claiming that the Syrian anti-missile defense systems had fired indiscriminately, even when the Israeli planes had left the region.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu promised that Russia would not leave Israel’s actions without response.