Russia may take steps to prevent further incidents involving the Israeli Air Force jets and has all the capabilities to close Syrian airspace to Israeli military aircraft if it becomes necessary, a member of the Russian parliament's upper house's defense committee, Frants Klintsevich, told Sputnik on Sunday.
"The essence and meaning of our response is to completely eliminate the possibility of such incidents in the future. We, for example, have all the necessary resources to completely close the Syrian airspace for Israel, and this is only one of the options," Klintsevich said.
The evidence released by the Russian Defense Ministry on the circumstances of the Il-20 downing left no doubt that the Israeli Air Force was to blame for the tragedy, the lawmaker stressed, adding that it was impossible to challenge this conclusion "based on an impartial minute-by-minute analysis of the facts."
According to Klintsevich, the list of gross violations of mutual agreements committed by Israeli pilots occupies more than one page and the ministry pointed to each of them.
"How will this tragedy affect Russia's relations with Israel? It is clear that it is up to the leadership [of Russia] how to address this issue, and I can only make assumptions. I think that the decision will be made taking into account the long-standing good relations between Russia and Israel, and therefore a sharp u-turn like the abolition of a visa-free regime, not to mention something more serious, is hardly possible here," he said.
In general, Klintsevich believes that much will depend on Israel's reaction to the conclusions of the Russian Defense Ministry.
"In connection with this, I consider the statement of Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], who said today that the attacks on Syria would continue, to be counter-productive. This rhetoric can only aggravate the situation, I do not think that this development of events meets the interests of Israel," the Russian lawmaker concluded.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry reiterated, during a briefing on circumstances of the September 17 downing of a Russian Il-20 plane in Syria, that the Israeli Air Force was to blame for the incident. According to the ministry, the actions of the IAF pilots, which led to the death of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence.
Following the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin he was ready to provide Russia with all the information needed to investigate the Il-20 disaster. Nevertheless, he laid the responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft on Syria.
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