Russia’s response to jet downing

Russia faults Israel over military jet’s downing in Syria, vows response

September 19, 2018

The tragic incident with Russia’s Il-20 military jet, which was downed by Syrian air defenses over the Mediterranean while repelling an Israeli attack, dominated headlines in the Russian press on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as “a chain of tragic accidental consequences.” The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Israel saying that the Syrian air defenses shot down the Russian jet while trying to target Israeli fighter jets, which were carrying out a strike on Syria’s military facilities. Israel denied its responsibility, but offered condolences over the death of 15 Russian servicemen. The Russian president’s statement and his phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu somewhat eased tensions, but Putin vowed that ‘everyone would notice’ Russia’s tit-for-tat steps, Kommersant writes. The Israelis fear that Moscow will now be providing a harsher response to their strikes on Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry stressed that it views Israel’s actions as “hostile” and Moscow reserves the right to an adequate response, without specifying particular measures. Kommersant’s source familiar with the situation explained that the Russian military did not mean any attacks on the Israeli jets. “Most likely, they meant absolute inaction in the future regarding the issues where they were ready to help Israel earlier.” In particular, Moscow may refuse to hold talks between Iran and Hezbollah.

Leonid Ivashov, ex-head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department of International Military Cooperation, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russia may start shooting down any Israeli jet intruding Syria’s airspace. Moscow could also supply defensive armaments to Hezbollah, a Shia group, which is deemed to be terrorist by Israel. Ivashov noted that Russia should help upgrade Syrian troops’ skills and supply state-of-the-art air defense systems to Syria.

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Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev, a military expert, called the Il-20 tragedy “a deliberate provocation,” which may worsen ties with both Israel and the US-led coalition. “No one noticed the fact that a French frigate also delivered missile strikes on Syria. On what grounds?” he said. Amid these circumstances there is an increasing risk that Russian forces may directly clash with the US military and its allies, Netkachev stressed.

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