Furious with Israel, Russia gives Assad advanced anti-aircraft system
Russia will supply the Syrian regime with the advanced S-300 air defence system, its military chief said on Monday, following the downing of a Russian plane Moscow has blamed on Israel.
In a televised statement, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the decision to "transfer the modern S-300 air defence system to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks" was taken by President Vladimir Putin and is one of the "response measures" following the downing of the Russian plane that killed all 15 troops on board.
Russia laid the blame squarely on Israel, saying that its fighter jet pushed the Russian aircraft into the line of fire of Syria's air defence systems.
Russian officials said Syria's outdated S-200 systems weren't sophisticated enough to identify the Russian plane as a friendly one.
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Syrian military members had already been trained to use the more advanced system, which was originally set to be sent over in 2013 but was held up "at the request of Israel", Shoigu said.
"In regions near Syria over the Mediterranean Sea, there will be radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory".
Moscow says Israeli F-16 planes which struck Latakia in western Syria on September 17 later used the landing Russian Il-20 surveillance plane as a "cover," which resulted in the Il-20 being struck by a Syrian air defence missile.
"We are certain that the realisation of these measures will cool the 'hot heads' and will keep them from poorly thought-out actions which threaten our servicemen," Shoigu said.
The state-owned Russia Today said the S-300 would boost the Syrian regime's air defence capabilities and deny Israel access to its airspace.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Monday accused Israeli pilots of acting deliberately and said the downing of the Russian plane would harm relations between the two countries.
"According to information of our military experts, the reason [behind the downing] were premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Russia launched its campaign in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in 2015 and though the involvement turned the tide of war in favour of Syrian regime forces. Moscow has since played a careful balancing act, maintaining good ties both with Iran and Israel.
Russia's stepped-up role in Syria enabled Assad's forces, which had been losing ground to the armed opposition, to gain the upper hand in the war and reclaim wide swathes of territory held by the rebels.
More than 360,000 people have died and millions displaced from their homes since the regime responded to anti-Assad protests in 2011 with brutal repression.
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