Syria’s armed forces, long dependent on outdated S-200 air defenses, will now receive the modern S-300 system, Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced on Monday.
“The S-300 is to be supplied to Syria within the fortnight,” Shoigu said in comments published by the Russian news agency Interfax. Now “the Syrian air defense will be able to identify Russian planes,” he added.
Russia’s decision comes one week after its Syrian allies, responding to an Israeli air raid on the coastal province of Latakia, mistakenly targeted a Russian Ilyushin-20 plane, killing the 15 military personnel on board.
Israel said its F-16s had already returned to Israeli airspace by the time the Russian craft was downed and blamed Syria’s armed forces for indiscriminate fire.
But Moscow insisted the Syrians had no capability to determine which plane was friend or foe with their outdated Soviet system.
Israel, which carries out regular strikes in Syria targeting the militant group Hezbollah, is staunchly opposed to the upgrading of Syria’s air defenses.
Syrian servicemen have already undergone training to operate the S-300 system, Russia’s defense minister said on Monday, suggesting the latest incident was the last straw needed to transfer the system to its ally.
The decision, he said, was approved by President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, accused the Israeli pilots of “premeditated actions” over the downing of the Russian surveillance plane last week and warned that the incident would harm relations between the two countries, AFP reported.
“According to information of our military experts, the reason [behind the downing] was premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as telling journalists.