The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that the Russian Air Force Il-20 surveillance aircraft which went missing over the Mediterranean Sea was downed by Syrian air defense system blaming Israel for “triggering a chain of events that led” to the incident.
The plane was 35 kilometers off the coast of Syria when it vanished and was reportedly returning to the Khmeimim airbase in Syria. According to the MoD, the aircraft was destroyed by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile (SAM).
Russia claimed that Israeli pilots conducting airstrikes in Latakia, Syria used the Il-20 as a cover which resulted in the downing of the Russian aircraft.
“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the MoD statement said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke to his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on the phone about the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane on Monday night.
“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” RT quoted the Russian minister as saying. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”
The Russian ministry stressed that the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, which didn’t stop them from “the provocation”. It also added that Israel failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance saying the the warning came a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area.”
The debris from the downed plane, with 14 service members on board, was found some 27 km off the coast of Latakia and the search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane, according to the MoD.
The Israeli government has not publicly commented on the incident so far.