Vladimir Putin
Vladimir PutinREUTERS

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday afternoon that the recent loss of a reconnaissance plane shot down over Syria was the result of a “chain of tragic circumstances”, after Russia’s defense ministry slammed the Israeli Air Force, which it claimed shot down the aircraft.

“When people are dying – especially under such circumstances – it is always a tragedy,” Putin said during a Moscow press conference with Hungarian premier Viktor Orban.

When asked by a journalist during a question and answer session whether Russia viewed the downing of the Ilyushin IL-20 turboprop reconnaissance aircraft last night in the same light as the shooting down of a Russian jet fighter by Turkey in November 2015, Putin said the downing of the IL-20 appeared to be an accident.

“[It] looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

While Putin never directly attributed the downing of the aircraft to the Israel Air Force, ABC News reported that he backed a statement issued by Russia’s Defense Ministry blaming Israel.

The Russian president said the incident would be thoroughly investigated, following claims by Israel that Syrian surface-to-air missiles brought down the IL-20.

A spokesman for Putin told TASS that the Russian leader would discuss the incident with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, the IDF denied claims by the Russian defense ministry that Israeli jet fighters had shot down the IL-20 during airstrikes in Syria.

According to the IDF, Syrian anti-air missiles fired after an Israeli airstrike in northern Syria struck the Russian plane, destroying it.

The Russian Defense Ministry later blamed Israel for the downing of the IL-20, which had been carrying 15 crew members at the time.

A defense ministry spokesman said Israel had warned the Russians a minute before the strike, and 15 Russian military personnel were killed in the crash.