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Putin sees chance circumstances behind downing of Russian plane in Syria

SYRIA (Reuters): Russia’s Defence Ministry said earlier that the aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems, but accused Israel of indirectly causing the incident, saying Israeli jets nearby had put the Russian plane in the path of danger. The ministry threatened to retaliate over what it called a hostile act.

Putin’s comments, made after talks with Hungary’s prime minister in Moscow, appeared to somewhat defuse the situation though he said Russia needed to look further into what happened.

“I 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.

Putin said Moscow’s response would aim at securing the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria’s complex civil war in which various outside powers have backed opposing sides.

“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.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, with 15 Russians on board, was downed by anti-aircraft guns of Moscow’s ally, Syria, in a “friendly fire” incident.

But the ministry said it held Israel responsible because, at the time of the incident, Israeli jets were attacking Syrian targets and had only given Moscow one minute’s warning, putting the Russian aircraft in danger of being caught in cross-fire.

“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.”

At a monthly U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria, U.S. adviser on Syria, James Jeffrey, expressed “sorrow to our council partners Russia for the tragic loss of life …”

“The unfortunate incident reminds us of the need to find a permanent, peaceful, and political resolution to the conflict.”

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