Russia's Defence Ministry has officially blamed Israel for shooting down one of its military aircraft which was attacked by Syrian regime forces last Monday, news agencies have reported. Major General Igor Konashenkov alleged that an Israeli fighter jet "deliberately" used the Russian Il-20 as a shield, and the Syrians mistook it for an Israeli aircraft and shot it down. All 15 people on board were killed in the incident.
"This act," said Konashenkov, "reflected either a lack of professionalism or criminal negligence. We believe that the Israeli Air Force and those who were making decisions about these actions are fully to blame for the tragedy that happened to the Russian Il-20 plane."
The Israelis deny that their fighter sought cover behind the Russian or any other aircraft. "The result of the downing of the Russian plane by Syrian fire is severe and tragic and we convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the Russian people," an Israeli Air Force spokesperson said.
According to Moscow, the Israeli action was a violation of the agreements signed in 2015 regarding military cooperation in Syria. In the wake of the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to avoid a diplomatic spat between the two countries.
Israel also dispatched a senior military delegation to Russia to present the findings of an official investigation into the shooting down of the aircraft. Moscow, however, has insisted on Israel carrying out a more detailed probe.