Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that “tragic and chance circumstances” were behind the downing of a Russian military plane off the coast of Syria the previous night — softening previous claims by senior defense officials in Moscow who blamed the Israeli Air Force for the incident.
Fifteen Russian soldiers were killed when a S-200 missile fired by the Syrian military hit the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft. Israeli planes had earlier attacked a Syrian military facility near Latakia (the Israeli military has carried out dozens of strikes in Syria in recent years to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian weaponry to the Tehran regime’s Shi’a Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah).
“It looks most likely in this case that it was a chain of tragic chance events, because an Israeli aircraft did not shoot down our aircraft. But without any doubt, we need to seriously get to the bottom of what happened,” Putin told reporters in Moscow.
Putin added that Russia’s response to the incident would be based on securing the safety of the thousands of its troops in Syria. “As for retaliatory measures, they will be aimed first and foremost at further ensuring the safety of our military personnel and facilities in Syria,” the Russian leader said. “And these will be steps that everyone will notice.”