Russia blames 'misleading' Israeli intelligence for downed plane in Syria

Our Foreign Staff
Russian IL-20M (Ilyushin 20m) plane landing at an unknown location.  - AFP

The Russian military on Sunday said "misleading" information from the Israeli airforce caused the downing of a Russian plane in Syria, and denounced the "adventurism" of Israeli pilots.

Military spokesman Igor Konashenkov presented the results of an investigation of how a Russian Ilyushin-20 with 15 troops on board was shot down by a Syrian air defence missile on September 17.

Moscow has accused Israel's fighter pilots of using the bigger Ilyushin as cover, resulting in Syria's Soviet-era S-200 air defence system interpreting the Russian plane as a target.

Israel denied this version of events and its air force commander flew to Moscow following the incident, which President Vladimir Putin called a result of a "chain of tragic accidental circumstances."

It was the deadliest known case of friendly fire between Syria and key backer Russia since Moscow's game-changing 2015 military intervention.

Konashenkov said the Russian military received a call from Israeli command at 1839 GMT warning that Israel would be striking "north of Syria", where the Il-20 surveillance aircraft was monitoring the Idlib de-escalation zone.

Russia ordered its plane back to base. Then, "one minute" after Israel's call, its F-16 planes struck targets in Latakia in western Syria, he said.

"The misleading (information) by the Israeli officer regarding the location of the strikes made it impossible to guide the Il-20 to a safe location," said Konashenkov.

As the Il-20 was landing near Latakia, one of the F-16 planes "began manoeuvres" at 1859 GMT "getting closer to the Il-20", which was interpreted as a repeat attack by the Syrian air defence and resulted in it being shot down, he said.

"Monitoring the Il-20, the Israeli fighters used it as cover from the anti-aircraft missiles" and continued to patrol the area long after the Russian plane was shot down, he said.