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Russian bases in Syria to be equipped with upgraded control systems — official

The Russian Defense Ministry is making steps to upgrade security on Russian military bases in Syria

PATRIOT PARK /Moscow region/, September 19. /TASS/. Russian Defense Ministry is making steps to upgrade security on Russian military bases in Syria and installation of automated control instruments is one of the technical solutions it is currently working at, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters on Wednesday.

"President Vladimir Putin issued instructions earlier [before Monday’s incident involving the Russian reconnaissance aircraft Ilyushin-20 - TASS] to step up the protection of our bases in Hmeymim and Tartus," he said. "For instance, Kalashnikov corporation has come up with the technical solutions in the form of automated control instruments that will be installed there to build up defense of the facilities."

"The Defense Ministry pays due attention to security issues," Borisov said as he answered a question on the possible upgrading of Russian military’s security and safety in Syria, which Putin mentioned after the Ilyushin-20 crash. "This effort is in full swing today."

According to earlier reports by the Defense Ministry, radio communications with the Ilyushin-20 were lost at around 23:00 hours Moscow Standard Time [20:00 hours UTC] on Monday, September 17, when the aircraft was on a mission over the Mediterranean Sea, some 35 km away from the Syrian coast.

"The label marking the Ilyushin-20 on the navigation control radars disappeared at the time when four Israeli F-16 jets were delivering strikes at Syrian facilities in Latakia Governorate," the report said.

The ministry said later the aircraft had been downed by a Syrian antiaircraft system. Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as a shield and brought the fire from an S-200 antiaircraft missile complex on to it.

The ministry officials ruled out the situation where the Russian warplane might have remained unnoticed by the Israeli crews, as it was approaching to land from the altitude of 5 km above seawater. The official spokesman for the ministry, Gen Igor Konashenkov said the Russian side had summed up the Israeli action as a purported provocation.

Vladimir Putin said on his part the incident involving the Russian aircraft looked like a chain of tragic coincidences. He added that Russia would take measures to reinforce the security of its contingent in Syria.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu charged Israel directly, saying all blame for the downing of the Ilyushin-20 went to the Israeli side. He promised that Moscow would not leave the situation unreciprocated.

In the meantime, the Israelis said blame for the incident should go to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah Shiite movement in Lebanon. They also offered assistance to investigation of the tragedy that took away the lives of fifteen Russian military.