Ukraine claims it destroyed Russian spy plane in attack over Sea of Azov

A Russian Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control training aircraft flies over Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia May 7, 2019. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

A Russian A-50 spy plane seen during a rehearsal for a military parade in Moscow in 2019.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters/FileCNN — 

Ukraine claimed it destroyed a Russian spy plane over the Sea of Azov on Monday, in what would be a significant strike against Moscow’s aerial capabilities.

Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi initially said on Telegram on Monday that two aircraft had been destroyed, writing: “Warriors of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed an enemy A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an enemy IL-22 air control center.”

He also thanked the Air Force for “the perfectly planned and executed operation” in southern Ukraine.

In a statement, the Ukrainian Air Forces called the special operation in the Azov Sea region “successful.”

Information about the downing of two Russian military aircraft by Ukrainian forces over the Sea of Azov appeared in social media late on Sunday.

Moscow has not yet confirmed the loss of the aircraft. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not comment on the reports on Monday and referred journalists to the Russian Ministry of Defense. The defense ministry did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, later said in a post on Facebook that one of the Russian planes targeted was able to make a landing, but said it appeared “beyond repair.”

“So, no matter how you slice it, the target is destroyed, and resuscitation will not help!” he wrote.

“The long-range radar detection aircraft A-50 was and is a priority target for us,” he added. “And until today, the destruction of this aircraft seemed an impossible task for the Air Force.”

The Sea of Azov separates Ukraine and Russia at the northeastern point of the Black Sea, north of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.

The Institute for the Study of War wrote earlier this month, citing Russian military bloggers, that Russia had “begun constant sorties of A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft due to the threat of Ukrainian strikes against Russian military infrastructure in Crimea.”

The A-50 is a Soviet-era spy plane designed to detect and report back the coordinates and movements of enemy objects.

A Ukrainian intelligence source provided an audio recording of the incident alleged to be an intercept from a nearby Russian fighter jet relaying an assistance call from the damaged IL-22 to ground control for an emergency landing.

“The aircraft asked to pass on information immediately. It was hit, plans to land in Anapa. An ambulance and fire fighters are urgently needed,” the nearby Russian jet allegedly radioed down to ground control.

CNN cannot independently confirm the audio recording.

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