Ukraine shoots down two Russian aircraft in disastrous day for Kremlin

Ukraine shoots down two Russian aircraft in disastrous day for Kremlin

The Guardian reports:

Ukraine’s military has shot down two of Russia’s command planes, in one of the most disastrous days for the Kremlin’s air power since the start of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s commander in chief, said his air force had destroyed an A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an Il-22 control centre plane. Both were flying above the Sea of Azov on Sunday when they were hit at 9.10pm local time.

The A-50, which detects air defences and coordinates targets for Russian jets, crashed instantly, killing its crew. The badly damaged Il-22 appears to have made an emergency landing at an airfield in Anapa, Russia.

It is unclear how Ukraine managed to target and shoot down the planes. One theory is that a Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery – supplied by the US – was used. This, however, would involve moving the system close to the frontline where it could be detected.

Russian officials said they have “no information” about what exactly happened. Pro-Kremlin bloggers suggested the planes were hit by friendly fire or even shot down by a team of British SAS operatives using surface-to-air missiles.

Whatever the cause, the incident is a blow for Russia’s aviation, and a morale boost for Ukraine’s armed forces. Kyiv’s counter-offensive last year failed and in recent months Russia has launched a wave of attacks across the east, along a frozen frontline, seeking to regain the initiative.

According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the Kremlin has only six working A-50s in service. Each plane costs $330m to build. Last February partisans in Belarus attacked another A-50 while it sat on an airbase near Minsk. It is unclear how much damage they caused. [Continue reading…]

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