Sept. 23 (UPI) — Russia said Sunday the Israeli government is solely to blame for the downing of one of its aircraft by Syria last week because it deliberately was misleading on planned airstrikes.
“The Israeli military command either does not value the current level of relations with Russia or does not control certain military units,” Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday in Moscow in a briefing.
A Russian Il-20 military aircraft crashed near Syria on Sept. 17, killing 15 Russian airmen when the airplane was mistakenly shot down by Syria’s air defenses soon after an Israeli strike near the coastal Syrian city of Latakia.
Russia accused Israel of deliberately misleading Russia on its planned airstrikes, which otherwise would have allowed the plane to move to a safe place on time.
“Objective data says that the actions of Israeli pilots, which led to the death of 15 Russian military personnel, point to either lack of professionalism or criminal negligence,” Konashenkov said. “This is why we believe that the Russian Il-20 aircraft tragedy is solely the fault of the Israeli Air Force and those who made decisions concerning such actions.”
He stressed during the night of Sept. 17, the Israeli fighter jets “were active in an area that both military and civilian aircraft fly through when landing at the Hmeimim air base.”
The Russian jet was flying over the Mediterranean Sea back to Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria when contact was lost. The ministry said four Israeli F-16 fighter jets had carried out on targets in the Syrian province of Latakia.
Israel has claimed the plane was downed while Israeli jets had returned to Israeli territory, posted on Twitter: “When the Syrian Army launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane, IAF jets were already within Israeli airspace. … During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”
But instead Konashenko said: “The Israeli jets saw the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 and used it as a shield against the anti-aircraft missiles, while they carried on maneuvering in the region.”
Since the countries reached a cooperation agreement, Russia has sent as many as 310 notifications to the Israeli military while Israel only notified Russia 25 times.
Konashenkov noted Israel has carried out more than 200 strikes in Syria in the past year and a half.
“This is an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian Federation for Israel and the Israeli people recently,” Konashenkov said.