Russian president Vladimir Putin has described the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria as “like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances”, in a measured statement that appeared to step back from earlier threats of direct retaliation against Israel made by his defence ministry.
“When people die, especially in such tragic circumstances, it’s always a disaster — for us all, for the country, for our close comrades,” Putin said in his first remarks on the incident.
The Russian president said that comparisons should not be drawn with the 2015 shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish aircraft, which prompted economic retaliation from Moscow and a freezing of diplomatic relations.
“As for your comparison with the well-known events, when our aircraft was shot down by a Turkish fighter, it’s still a different situation,” he said in response to a press question.
“Then the Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft . . . Here, it’s rather like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances, because an Israeli plane did not shoot down our plane,” Putin added.