The Russian military on Sunday said “misleading” information from the Israeli airforce caused the downing of a Russian plane in Syria, and denounced the “adventurism” of Israeli pilots.
Military spokesman Igor Konashenkov presented the results of an investigation of how a Russian Ilyushin-20 with 15 troops on board was shot down by a Syrian air defence missile on September 17.
Moscow has accused Israel’s fighter pilots of using the bigger Ilyushin as cover, resulting in Syria’s Soviet-era S-200 air defence system interpreting the Russian plane as a target.
Israel denied this version of events and its air force commander flew to Moscow following the incident, which President Vladimir Putin called a result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
It was the deadliest known case of friendly fire between Syria and key backer Russia since Moscow’s game-changing 2015 military intervention.
Konashenkov said the Russian military received a call from Israeli command at 1839 GMT warning that Israel would be striking “north of Syria”, where the Il-20 surveillance aircraft was monitoring the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Russia ordered its plane back to base. Then, “one minute” after Israel’s call, its F-16 planes struck targets in Latakia in western Syria, he said.
“The misleading (information) by the Israeli officer regarding the location of the strikes made it impossible to guide the Il-20 to a safe location,” said Konashenkov.
As the Il-20 was landing near Latakia, one of the F-16 planes “began manoeuvres” at 1859 GMT “getting closer to the Il-20”, which was interpreted as a repeat attack by the Syrian air defence and resulted in it being shot down, he said.
“Monitoring the Il-20, the Israeli fighters used it as cover from the anti-aircraft missiles” and continued to patrol the area long after the Russian plane was shot down, he said.
Actions by the Israeli pilots “either speak of their unprofessionalism or criminal negligence at the very least,” Konashenkov said, reiterating that Israeli airforce was fully responsible for the downing of the plane.
He said the “adventurism” of the Israeli military could have even put in danger civilian planes which use the same airspace to land at the nearby Hmeimim aerodrome.
“This is a very ungrateful response to everything Russia has done for Israel,” he said.