Russian military plane shot down by air defense missiles in Syria
Russia has blamed Israel for the downing of one of its military planes in Syria and threatened “retaliation.”
An Ilyushin IL-20 aircraft was shot down by Syrian air defense missiles in what has been called a “friendly fire” incident.
The Russian defense ministry has claimed that Israeli jets were attacking nearby targets and purposely “used the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defenses.”
Russia says the aircraft was carrying 15 servicemen and disappeared from radar 22 miles away from Syria on Monday night during its approach to Hmeimim airbase, near Lattakia.
According to Sky News, Russia says Israel had not warned it about the jets’ attack until a minute before, and that it reserved “the right to proper retaliatory actions.”
Everyone on board died when the IL-20 reconnaissance plane was hit by one of four surface-to-air missiles, said the defense ministry.
“We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile,” a spokesman told Russian state television.
“Hiding behind the Russian aircraft, the Israeli pilots put it in the line of fire of Syrian anti-aircraft systems.
As a result, the IL-20… was shot down by the (Syrian) S-200 missile system,” said Igor Konashenkov.
He said Israeli pilots “could not have failed to see the Russian aircraft, as it was coming in to land from a height of five kilometers (three miles).”
Israel’s military declined to comment, as did the foreign ministry and the prime minister’s office
Syrian officials have also not commented.
An earlier Russian statement said they had also “detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne.”
France denied any involvement in the aircraft’s downing.
Foreign powers backing different sides in Syria’s war often use hotlines to try to ensure they do not accidentally attack each another – but the risk remains high.
Russia’s military has been supporting Syria’s President Bashar al Assad since late 2015, but it has come at a cost with a number of fatal air incidents.
In March 2018, 39 people died when a Russian transport plane crashed while coming in to land at the Hmeimim base; and in December 2016 a TU-154 on its way to Syria crashed, killing 92 people including army musicians and dancers.