On September 23, the Russian Defense Ministry held an additional press briefing providing details on the IL-20 shootdown, which took place off Syrian coast on September 17.
Defense ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov once again conflirmed that Russia believes that “the blame for the Russian Il-20 aircraft tragedy lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force [IAF]”.
He recalled that the IL-20 military plane was shot down by Syrian air defense forces because Israeli’s F-16s were using it as a cover during the attack on Syria.
“The presented objective data testifies that the actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which led to the loss of life of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence to say the least. Therefore, we believe that the blame for the tragedy with the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft lies entirely with the Israeli air forces and those who made the decision to carry out such actions,” Konashenkov said.
“Thus, the Israeli jets created a direct threat to any passenger or transport aircraft that could have been there at that time and could have become victims of the adventurism of the Israeli military.”
According to the provided data, the IAF gave a warning to the Russian side less than a minute before carrying out a strike. Thus the IAF gave IL-20 no time for any safety maneuvers. Konashenkov said that these actions “a clear violation of the 2015 Russian-Israeli agreements.”
Furthermore, the IAF failed to provide the location its jets or properly specify their targets, claiming they were going to attack several ‘industrial facilities’ in northern Syria. This misinformation prompted the Russian Command to order the IL-20 back to the Khmeimim air base. At the same time, the Israeli warplanes attacked the western Syrian province of Latakia.
“The misleading information provided by the Israeli officer about the area of strikes did not allow the Russian Il-20 airplane to move timely to a safe area,” Konashenkov stated.
He pointed out that Israeli actions are an example of its low commitment to the deconfliction agreement with Russia. According to Konashenkov, Russia has sent as many as 310 notifications to the IAF during operations in Syria. In turn, the IAF has notified the Russian side only 25 times while its jets have carried out more than 200 strikes against targets located in Syria over the past 18 months alone.
“This is an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian Federation for Israel and the Israeli people recently,” Konashenkov said.
He also revealed that a notable number of pro-Iranian forces and 24 multiple launch rocket systems were withdrawn from the Golan Heights with Russian military’s assistance thus de-escalating the situation there.
“In view of the above, the hostile actions committed by the Israeli Air Force against the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft cross the line of civilized relations,” Konashenkov emphasized.
The military spokesman added that “Russia’s retaliatory measures with regard to the Il-20 downing will be directed primarily at stepping up the security of Russian military officers in Syria and our military facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These will be the steps everyone will notice.”
Following the press briefing by the Russian military, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told local Kan Bet radio that Israel is not going to cease its operations in Syria or to change its strategy in Syria.
The statement showed that Moscow and Tel Aviv have some serious contradictions in their understanding of the situation in the war-torn country.