MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. A Russian military Ilyushin-20 aircraft was shot down by Syria’s air defense over the Mediterranean Sea because Israel’s F-16 fighters used it as cover, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Tuesday.
"By using the Russian plane as cover the Israeli air pilots made it vulnerable to Syrian air defense fire. As a result, the Ilyushin-20, its reflective surface being far greater than that of the F-16, was downed by a missile launched with the S-200 system," Konashenkov said.
Konashenkov said four F-16s from the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike with guided air missles against Syrian facilities in the area of Latakia at about 22:00 on September 17. The fighters approached the target from the Mediterranean at a low altitude.
The Israeli planes deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft in that area, he stated.
"The bombing raid was near the French frigate The Auvergne and in close proximity to the Ilyushin-20 plane from Russia’s Aerospace Force that was about to land," Konashenkov said.
He pointed out that the Israeli command centers and the F-16s’ pilots "could not but see the Russian plane, which was approaching the runway from an altitude of five kilometers."
"Nevertheless they deliberately staged this provocation," he stressed.
According to Konashenkov, Israel had issued no warning to the command of the Russian military group in Syria of the forthcoming operation.
"A hotline warning was received less than one minute before the strike, which left no chance for getting the Russian plane to safety," he added.