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Russia agrees to supply Syria with missile defense system

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks through the porthole while aboard the presidential plane on Dec. 11, 2017, during the approach to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia. Russia has agreed to supply the Syrian government with a surface-to-air missile defense system as it continues to try to prop up the regime there. (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian government has agreed to provide the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a missile defense system, according to the BBC.

What happened?

The Russian government announced Monday that it would be sending Syria an S-300 surface-to-air missile system. In a televised address, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the new system would provide “adequate retaliatory measures to increase the safety of Russian military fighting international terrorism in Syria.”

“A modern S-300 air defense missile system will be transferred to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks,” he added.

This move is in response to a Syrian missile inadvertently shooting down a Russian plane last week, killing 15 Russians on board. The Syrian military had been trying to target four Israeli jets that were conducting raids near the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia had originally agreed to send the missiles to Syria in 2013 but rescinded that offer after Israel objected. But now Russia holds Israel responsible for the downing of the plane. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that the Russian deaths were "a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military."

"Now, the situation has changed. And it's not our fault" Shoigu said. He also said that the new system "will cool down the hotheads [in Israel] and prevent ill-considered actions threatening Russian soldiers."

The new system will also be able to identify and track Russian aircraft, a feature that may have been able to prevent last week's incident. It will also give the Syrian military the ability to jam onboard communications systems and radar.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces released a statement saying that “Israel expresses its regret over the death of the crew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.”

What else?

Russia has been critical to the continued survival of Assad's regime throughout Syria's seven-and-a-half year long civil war.

In March, the U.S. Department of Defense has warned Russia that its support of Assad meant it was "morally complicit and responsible" in the brutal campaign that Assad has waged against his own people in an effort to cripple rebel groups in his country.

As of March when that statement was made, around 511,000 people had been killed in Syria's civil war. A staggering 85 percent of those were estimated to be civilians killed by the government.

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