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Russian Air Defense Mistakenly Downs Own Aircraft in Ukraine

Russian forces appear to have mistakenly downed their newest fighter aircraft over Ukraine, multiple news outlets reported, citing a video shared by the Ukrainian military on the Telegram messaging app.

A Russian air defense system seems to have mistakenly struck the recently inducted Sukhoi Su-34M fighter-bomber near Alchevsk — a city in the Luhansk region currently occupied by Russian-backed separatists — on Sunday.

A Russian defense journalist, Yevgeny Poddubny, captured the incident, apparently unaware of the aircraft’s identity.

“Last night, the air defense crew of the allied forces destroyed a target in the sky over Alchevsk (LPR). The nature of the target is not clear. The burning ball fell to the ground for more than a minute,” Poddubny wrote while sharing the video on Telegram on Monday.

Russian Reaction

Russian commentators initially mistook the aircraft for a Ukrainian plane until its identity became clear, after which they deleted the video, Newsweek wrote

“The jet is ours, unfortunately. Sometimes it happens. I heard the info from a friend, I thought bulls**t, but it was confirmed,” the outlet quoted a Russian Telegram user, Ruslan, as saying.

The Dutch Aviation Society reportedly identified the aircraft wreckage through its registry number — RF-95890. 

The Russian government has not commented on the incident. 

Upgraded Su-34

The Russian Aerospace Forces inducted its first Su-34Ms in June. A total of 76 aircraft have been ordered through 2027.

Russia began inducting the twin-engine, twin-seat plane in 2014 as a replacement for the Su-24M. 

An improved version of the Su-34 model, the 34M features a more powerful engine, better radar, electronics, and weapons payload, including the Kh-35U anti-ship air-to-surface missile, capable of sinking a mid-sized vessel 250 kilometers (155 miles) away. 

Russian Losses More Than Twice Ukraine’s 

Russia has lost a total of 35 fighter aircraft since the war began in February, including 11 Su-34s, according to the Oryx blog, which documents visually-confirmed equipment lost in the conflict. 

Ukraine has also lost a similar number of fighters, though the country’s overall aircraft losses in the conflict are less than half of Russia’s: 74 to 181.

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