Moscow on Sunday blamed Israel for the downing by Syrian anti-aircraft fire of a Russian spy plane during an Israeli air raid in Syria last week, saying its military had been misled by the Israel Defense Forces about the time and location of the airstrike.
In a press briefing, the Russian defense ministry rejected the findings of the IDF about the incident and insisted that the Israeli pilots who conducted the raid on a Syrian military facility in Latakia used the Russian reconnaissance aircraft as cover during their assault — something Israel has repeatedly denied.
It also said Israel did not give Russia sufficient warning time ahead of the attack, and that it did not accurate information on the specific target of the attack. The Russian plane was thus unable to move out of the target area in good time, it said.
“The actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which resulted in the loss of life of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence, to say the least,” said Russian defense ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov.
“Therefore, we believe that the blame for the tragedy of the Russian Ilyushin aircraft lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force and those who made the decision to carry out such actions,” he said, according to a translation of the press conference provided by the Kremlin-backed Russia Today television channel.
The Israeli military would not immediately comment on the Russian allegations, but a spokesperson said the IDF was preparing a response statement.
The Russian defense ministry spokesman said Israel’s actions violated a 2015 deconfliction agreement between the two countries, which was meant to prevent such clashes and inadvertent casualties. He added that the IAF rarely informs Moscow of its attack plans.
“During the timeframe covered by the agreements, the Israeli command center received 310 notifications about Russian missions near Israeli territory. During the same time, Israel issued only 25 notifications and did so only just before attacks,” Konashenkov said. Those figures could not be immediately confirmed by Israel.
“This is an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian federation for Israel and for the Israeli people, recently,” he added, apparently referring to Moscow’s role in enforcing a ceasefire agreement in southwest Syria that is meant to keep Iranian forces away from Israel’s border.
Israeli fighter jets conducted the airstrike last Monday night on a weapons facility in the coastal city of Latakia that the IDF said was going to provide weapons to the Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies. During a Syrian air defenses counterattack, the Russian spy plane was shot down by a S-200 anti-aircraft missile, and its 15 crew members were killed.
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