Russia Again Blames Israel for Downing of Its Military Plane by Syrian Forces

A computer simulation from the Russian Defense Ministry purports to show Israeli jets near the Russian reconnaissance plane, shown in red, off Syria’s coast before it was accidentally shot down by Syrian forces last week, killing all 15 aboard. (Associated Press)

Russia on Sunday again blamed Israel for the downing of one of its military aircraft off Syria’s Mediterranean coast last week, saying an Israeli fighter jet used the Russian plane as a shield from Syrian government forces.

The Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane was hit by Syrian government forces on Sept. 17, killing all 15 Russian military personnel on board. Israel has acknowledged that it had conducted an airstrike on Syrian territory controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Information obtained by the Russian ministry of defense “points to either lack of professionalism or criminal negligence,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said at a briefing Sunday in Moscow, Tass news agency reported.

The Russian military initially blamed Israel for the downed aircraft. A day later, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the plane’s downing was “a chain of tragic, fatal circumstances.”

Putin’s comments may have been an attempt to avoid a conflict with Israel in what is already a chaotic, seven-year war in Syria with several different forces operating on various sides. The Russian Defense Ministry’s statements Sunday, however, placed the blame squarely on Israel.

“The Israeli military command either does not value the current level of relations with Russia or does not control certain military units,” Konashenkov said Sunday, according to Russian media.

Russia has backed Assad’s government forces, while Israel has conducted airstrikes against Iran-linked forces operating along its border. The two militaries cooperate through a “deconfliction line” to prevent incidents. Russia in July assured Israel it would get Iran to pull Tehran-backed militias away from Israel’s border.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Sabra Ayres