July 1, 2012
Russian technicians played a key part in the interception and shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syria’s anti-aircraft defenses 10 days ago, Britain’s Sunday Times reported Sunday. Diplomatic sources in the Middle East told the paper that destroying the F-4E Phantom II was a split-second decision intended as a warning to NATO to stay out of Syria’s civil war.
A source in Israel’s Air Force was quoted as saying “we would not be surprised if these Russian experts, if they didn’t push the button, at least were beside the Syrian officers who did it.”
The downing of the plane pushed Ankara closer to military intervention in Syria as Turkish troops and tanks were deployed near the border with Syria. Damascus responded by sending two tank brigades to the border.
A long-standing client of the old Soviet Union, Syria has acquired sophisticated air defenses from Moscow over the past four decades and is seen as President Vladimir Putin’s last friend in the Arab world, opposition sources say.