MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has held a telephone call with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, stating that Israel is solely to blame for the downing of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
"The responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft and the death of its crew lies solely with Israel. The Russian Defense Ministry used various communication channels on numerous occasions to urge Israel to refrain from conducting airstrikes in Syria, which threaten the security of Russian military personnel," Shoigu said.
According to the Russian defense minister, the irresponsible actions by the Israeli Air Force led to a tragedy, which claimed the lives of 15 Russian military personnel, "despite all existing agreements on preventing dangerous incidents."
"The Russian military command [in Syria] had been notified [of the attack] one minute before the Israeli F-16 jets conducted airstrikes," Shoigu pointed out.
"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.
Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters earlier on Tuesday that around 22:00 Moscow time (19:00 GMT) on September 17, four Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jets had carried a guided aerial bomb attack on Syrian targets near the city of Latakia. They started they target run at a low altitude from the Mediterranean Sea. "Using the Russian aircraft as a cover, Israeli pilots put it in the line of the Syrian air defense’s fire. As a result, the Il-20 plane, which has a far wider effective reflective area compared to the F-16 jets, was downed by a missile launched from an S-200 complex," he added.
"We consider Israel’s provocative actions as hostile," Konashenkov said.
The incident killed 15 Russian military personnel.