MOSCOW: Hours after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held Syria responsible for the fatal crash of Russia’s Il-20 aircraft, President Vladimir Putin tried to defuse the situation by calling the incident a tragic chance event.
“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.
"As for retaliatory measures, they will be aimed first and foremost at further ensuring the safety of our military personnel and facilities in Syria. And these will be steps that everyone will notice," Putin said.
The Il-20 aircraft, with 15 Russians on board, was shot down by Syrian government on Monday after Israeli F-16 jets carrying out air strikes used the Russian plane as "cover".
Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone that Israel`s air force had been conducting operations in breach of Syria`s sovereignty, a Kremlin statement said.
Despite calling it a "friendly fire" incident, the Defense ministry held Israel responsible.
At the time of the incident, Israeli jets were attacking targets in Syria and had only given Moscow one minute`s warning, putting the Russian aircraft in danger of being caught in cross-fire, said the ministry.
Shoigu also vowed to respond against actions on behalf of the Israeli Air Force.
"We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us," said Shoigu, as reported by Russian news agency Tass.
Israeli F-16 jets delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane as cover, since the Israelis believed that Syria's air defenses would not counteract against that trajectory, Shoigu added.
"We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile," Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian state television. "As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished."
With Reuters inputs