May 22, 2024

Russian officials says the plane crashed over the southern Stavropol region due to a technical malfunction. 

Ukraine’s air force says it shot down a Russian strategic bomber with antiaircraft missiles for the first time since the war began in 2022.

The warplane was downed in Russian airspace, 300km (186 miles) from Ukraine’s border, on Friday after it took part in a long-range air strike that killed at least nine people in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk.

The Ministry of Defence said the plane was returning to its base in Russia after having fired missiles at Ukraine overnight.

“For the first time, antiaircraft missile units of the air force, in cooperation with the defence intelligence of Ukraine, destroyed a Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bomber,” Ukraine’s military said in a statement on Friday.

Russia commonly uses the bomber to fire cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from inside its own airspace.

Air Force Tu-22M3
The Russian Air Force’s Tu-22M3 [File: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP]

Russian officials denied Ukraine’s attack and said the plane crashed over the southern Stavropol region due to a technical malfunction.

“A Russian armed forces Tu-22M3 aircraft crashed in the Stavropol region while returning to its base aerodrome after performing a combat mission. The pilots ejected,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted Russia’s Defence Ministry as saying.

“According to preliminary data, the cause of the accident was a technical malfunction,” it added.

Stavropol Governor Vladimir Vladimirov said on Telegram that one of the four crew members died in the incident, and two were taken to hospital. He added that the search for the fourth member was continuing.

Reporting from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said Ukraine hit these bombers in August last year, but they were on the ground.

“It’s impossible to independently verify this, but it is an indication seemingly that Ukrainians, despite their demand for better air defences, still have the capability to be able to take down jets, bombers and missiles seemingly at quite a long distance,” he said.

A Russian missile attack in Dnipro
A destroyed car at a site of a Russian missile strike, in Dnipro, Ukraine [Mykola Synelnykov/Reuters]

Russian strikes killed at least nine people in the eastern city of Dnipro and surrounding region and injured at least 28 others.

The strikes damaged residential buildings and the main train station.

“A child who was heavily wounded during a massive enemy attack on the Dnipropetrovsk region today died in hospital. The death toll had now risen to nine, including three children,” the Office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said in a statement on Telegram on Friday.

Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said in a separate Telegram post that the number of victims is expected to rise as rubble from the damaged buildings is being cleared.

The region’s governor, Serhiy Lysak, told Ukrainian TV that air defences shot down 11 of 16 missiles and nine of 10 drones that attacked the area.

Following the strike, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his urgent calls for the country’s Western allies to supply them with air defence systems.

“Every country that provides air defence systems to Ukraine, every leader who helps persuade our partners that air defence systems should not be stored in warehouses but deployed in real cities and communities facing terror, and everyone who supports our defence is a life saver,” Zelenskyy said on social media.

On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance was also seeking to send more air defence systems to Ukraine as soon as possible.

“We are working at the possibility of [dispatching] more Patriot batteries to Ukraine. We are in dialogue with some specific countries,” he said.

The United States, one of Ukraine’s biggest suppliers of military aid, is expected to vote on a long-stalled $61bn package this weekend.

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