Russian jets shot down a Ukrainian fighter plane in east Ukraine, Kiev said on Thursday, the first time that Ukraine has accused the Russian army of using air power in the conflict. Russia’s defence ministry has denied the claims.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said the SU-25 fighter plane was brought down on Wednesday night near Amvrosiyivka, about 15 km (9 milles) from the border with Russia, by rockets that struck the tail as it turned away from the border area.
“It is likely that this was carried out by air-to-air rockets from the Russian airforce which were patrolling the border in a pair,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
The pilot safely ejected, said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the National Defence and Security Council, in comments to journalists.
Russia’s defence ministry denied the claims, calling the allegations "absurd", Russian state news agency RIA reported.
"It is absurd, just like all the previous accusations from Kiev's leadership against Russia's defence ministry," a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.
The downing of the SU-25 came against a background of increasingly strident charges of direct Russian involvement in the conflict, in which Kiev is fighting to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The attack planes are one of the Ukrainian military’s most effective weapons for targeting the separatist fighters and military equipment that Kiev says are being brought in from Russia to fortify rebel positions.
Moscow has repeatedly denied that it is either aiding or supplying the rebels. Western governments have accused Russia of both aiding the separatists and failing to use its influence to put down the rebellion.
On Wednesday the US and the EU ordered the toughest sanctions yet on some of Russia’s biggest companies, limiting their access to funding.
Attacks 'originating in Russia'
Lysenko said that many of the attacks on Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine are originating from Russia.
“The situation on the border in the zone of the ‘anti-terrorist operation’ is still very tough. Grad missile systems, heavy artillery and mortar is continually being used. The firing on the border posts and [government] forces is often coming from the territory of the Russian Federation,” Lysenko said.
In the past 24 hours, separatists have carried out 27 attacks on army checkpoints and government forces, Lysenko said. Five Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in the same period, he said.
That would bring to more than 270 the number of Ukrainian troops killed since the government launched an “anti-terrorist” operation in April to crush the separatists. Hundreds of civilians and rebels have also been killed.
Ukrainian positions have come under fire from artillery launched from the Russian border settlement of Kuybyshevo, Lysenko said, adding that more Russian units are continually arriving at the border.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-17