MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. France is partly to blame for the crash of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft in Syria and the death of Russian military servicemen, military expert Mikhail Khodaryonok told reporters.
"The French Navy's frigate, The Auvergne, did not make the best contribution to the air situation, creating additional difficulties for Syrian air defense teams," he said, adding that "the French frigate was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"By launching cruise missiles, the French Navy’s frigate only complicated the situation in that part of the Mediterranean Sea, which is already difficult. This is why the Russian Il-20 aircraft crash is partly France’s fault," the Russian expert stressed.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, at about 23:00 Moscow time (20:00 GMT) on September 17, contact was lost with a Russian Il-20 aircraft flying over the Mediterranean Sea back to the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria. The ministry said the aircraft had disappeared from radar during an airstrike carried out by four Israeli F-16 fighter jets on targets in the Syrian province of Latakia.
On Tuesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Il-20 aircraft had been accidently downed by Syrian air defenses as the Israeli F-16 jets had been using it as a cover. According to Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, Israeli pilots "could not but see the Russian plane, which was approaching the runway from an altitude of five kilometers." The ministry added that it considered such actions by Israel to be hostile.
Later in the day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a telephone call with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, stating that Israel was solely to blame for the downing of Russia’s Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea. "The Israeli Defense Ministry’s actions are not in the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership so we reserve the right to take retaliatory steps," the Russian defense chief stressed.