Ukraine accuses Russian jet of downing fighter plane in east

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 11:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 11:31pm

A Russian jet shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter plane that was on military operations over the east of Ukraine, where government forces are fighting to quell a pro-Russian separatist rebellion, the Ukrainian militarysaid.

It was the strongest Ukrainian allegation to date of direct Russian military involvement in the conflict. Russia's defence ministry declined to comment.

A rocket brought down the plane on Wednesday night and the pilot safely ejected, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national Defence and Security Council, said. It was the third reported incident this week in which a Ukrainian plane has been hit by a missile.

Kiev has said that an An-26 military transporter was brought down last Monday probably by a missile fired from Russia, either from the air or from the ground. Two of the eight people onboard that plane were killed, the Ukrainian military said.

On Wednesday, another SU-25 was hit by a rebel missile but the pilot brought the plane down successfully with relatively slight damage. Kiev did not allege Russian involvement in that case.

After a day's pause, Ukrainian warplanes on Wednesday resumed flights in the east where they have been striking at rebels and military equipment Kiev says is being brought in from Russia to fortify rebel positions.

The incidents come against a background of increasingly strident charges by Kiev of direct Russian involvement in the 31/2 month conflict. Moscow denies orchestrating the rebellion, but Western governments accuse it of failing to do enough to help curb the violence.

Lysenko said five more Ukrainian servicemen had been killed in the past 24 hours, which would bring to more than 270 the number killed since the government launched an "anti-terrorist" operation in April.

Tensions along the frontier - across which Ukraine says Russia is pouring fighters and weapons - are at boiling point, with Kiev warning that Moscow has massed troops there in preparation for a possible invasion.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse