Over the last two days, three Russian Air Force An-124−100 Ruslan cargo planes flew to Khmeimim airbase in Syria, reports Eurasia Daily. The planes flew over the Caspian Sea and then Iran and Iraq. According to the reports, seven more IL-76 military cargo planes landed in Khmeimim airbase during this past week.
On September 24, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu announced that Russia would begin deliveries of S-300 systems to Syria. The Russian decision to send these systems to Syria came after the downing of the Russian Il-20 military aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea. The aircraft was shot down on September 17 while returning to Khmeimim airbase. Fifteen Russian soldiers were killed as a result of this incident. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the IL-20 was shot down from a Syrian S-200 anti-aircraft while trying to repel an attack of Israeli aircraft in Latakia.
The Kremlin explained that the purpose of delivery of S-300 systems to Damascus is to ensure the safety of Russia military personnel. Presidential representative Dmitry Peskov then noted that the downing of the IL-20 was the result of the deliberate actions of the Israeli pilots.
The United States expressed discontent over Russia's plans to supply S-300 systems to Syria. In particular, the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton said that Moscow’s actions would lead to a “significant escalation” of tensions in the region. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, voiced a similar opinion. During a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 24, he said that the supply of advanced weapons systems to "irresponsible players" heightens risks in the Middle East region. The Russian president during his conversation with Netanyahu, in turn, called the decision to supply the S-300 to Syria an adequate response to the current situation.