Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   10 December

Russian defense minister blames Israel for downing military plane over Mediterranean

YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 18, ARMENPRESS. 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, TASS reported.

"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.

A Russian military plane Ilyushin-20 was shot down by the Syrian air defense over the Mediterranean Sea because Israel’s F-16 fighters used it as a cover, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Tuesday, TASS reports.

"By using the Russian plane as a 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 F-16, was downed by a missile launched with the S-200 system," Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov said four F-16s of the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike with guided air bombs 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 of Russia’s Aerospace Force that was about to land," Konashenkov said.

He pointed out that Israeli command centers and 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 said.

According to Konashenkov, Israel had issued no warning to the command of the Russian military group in Syria of the forthcoming operation.

"A hot-line warning was received less than one minute before the strike, which left no chance for taking the Russian plane to safety," he added.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan


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