Russia has doubled down on its allegation that Israel is to blame for the downing of a Russian military plane over the eastern Mediterranean Sea nearly a week ago, saying it was caused by 'misleading information' provided by the Israeli military.
Syrian government forces mistook the Il-20 reconnaissance plane for an Israeli jet on a bombing mission and shot it down off Syria's northwestern province of Latakia on September 17, killing all 15 servicemen onboard.
Russia's Defense Ministry blamed the plane's loss on Israel, accusing the country's military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems. The ministry also said that the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the Israeli air strike in Syria.
Israel rejected responsibility for the incident, saying Syrian antiaircraft batteries were to blame. It also insisted it had warned Russian forces of its raid ahead of time in accordance with previous agreements.
On September 23, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that the Israeli Air Force provided 'misleading information' to the Russian military about their F-16 jets' targets.
This 'made it impossible to direct the Il-20 aircraft to a safe area,' Konashenkov also said, adding that the ministry had a record of the conversation between Russian personnel and an Israeli officer.
The data points 'to either lack of professionalism or criminal negligence,' the Russian spokesman said.
Russia has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial support throughout the country's conflict, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
Israel, which has largely maintained friendly relations with Moscow in recent years, is not backing a specific side in the conflict, though it has admitted to conducting air strikes in the country targeting Iran and its allies, including Hizballah.
With reporting by AP, dpa, and TASS RFE/RL's Russian Service
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