Ukraine says it has downed second Russian A-50 spy plane in weeks

An A-50 aircraft during a military parade in Moscow in 2019
Image caption,An A-50 aircraft during a military parade (file photo)

By Phelan Chatterjee

BBC News

Ukraine says it has downed a Russian A-50 military spy plane – the second such claim in just over a month.

The plane was destroyed between the Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar, Ukrainian military sources said, over 200km from the front line.

Emergency services reportedly found plane fragments in Kanevskoy District and put out a raging fire.

Russia has not commented on the claim. Saturday marks two years since Russia launched a full-scale invasion.

The head of Ukraine’s Air Force Mykola Oleshchuk thanked his service and military intelligence for helping to bring down the plane – a long-range radar detection aircraft – on Friday and noted the incident coincided with a key Russian military holiday.

“Congratulations to the occupiers on the Defender of the Fatherland Day,” he said on Telegram.

Video shared online shows the moment the plane appears to be shot down in the air, as well as huge flames and thick, dark smoke seemingly rising after the crash.

At least one Russian military-aligned Telegram channel suggested the plane may have come down as a result of friendly fire. Fighterbomber wrote: “At the moment it is unknown who shot it down.”

Ukraine last claimed to have shot down an A-50 on 14 January.

A previous briefing from the UK’s Ministry of Defence said that Russia probably had six operational A-50s in service.

The planes, which detects air defences and co-ordinates targets for Russian jets, can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

Ukraine has struggled to make significant advances against Russian forces in the south-east recently.

In last month’s incident, Ukrainian army officials said an Il-22 control centre plane was destroyed as well as the A-50.

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