Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the ministry spokesman, told reporters that 15 people were killed late Monday after Syrian air defenses — activated in response to Israeli strikes — hit a Russian surveillance plane as it scrambled to leave the area.

“By using the Russian plane as a cover, the Israeli air pilots made it vulnerable to Syrian air defense fire,” Konashenkov said. “As a result, the Ilyushin-20, its reflective surface being far greater than that of an F-16, was downed by a missile launched with the S-200 system.”

He added that Israel gave Russia only a minute’s warning before launching the attack.