Putin softens tone on Israel over downed Syria plane
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that "tragic accidental circumstances" led to the downing of a Russian warplane by the Assad regime, appearing to soften the earlier rhetoric blaming Israel for the incident.
"It rather looks like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances," Putin told reporters, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015.
"An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane," Putin vowing to beef up security for Russia's military in Syria.
The Russian defence ministry earlier on Tuesday blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals, while Moscow summoned the Israeli ambassador.
Putin said he had signed off on the defence ministry statement.
"No doubt we should seriously look into this," Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response, Putin said.
"These will be the steps that everyone will notice," he said, without providing further details.
He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a "tragedy for us all."
The comments were made ahead of an expected phone call between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later on Tuesday, TASS news agency reported.
Late on Monday, Syrian regime defence systems accidentally shot down a Russian plane, killing all 15 crew members, when its air defences swung into action against an Israeli strike.
The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia's game-changing military intervention in September 2015.
The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defence supplied to Assad.
The Russian Ilyushin dropped off the radar over the Mediterranean soon after Turkey and Russia announced a deal that offered millions of people reprieve from a threatened military assault in northern Syria’s Idlib.