Ukraine said on Monday that it downed two Russian military command aircraft over the Sea of Asov, saying it had carried out a ‘successful’ mission against Moscow’s forces.
Officials said the country’s air force took out an A-50 radar-detection plane worth £260 million, as well as an IL-22 aerial command plane, as they flew over the Sea of Azov on Sunday.
The Sea of Azov lies between Russia and Ukraine, but Moscow controls its entire coast after seizing large swathes of southeastern Ukraine during its invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.
‘Minus an enemy long-range radar detection aircraft, A-50, and the aerial command centre Il-22!’ the air force said.
‘The special operation in the Azov region was successful,’ it said on social media.
A top Ukrainian commander shared a video of the A-50 slowly coming down to earth, with a caption that read: ‘This is exactly what the last flight into the zone of no return looked like’
The A-50 (pictured) is worth around £260 million
The IL-22 (pictured) is used as a aerial command aircraft by the Russian military
Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Valery Zaluzhny, said Kyiv had ‘destroyed’ the planes.
‘I am grateful to the Air Force for the excellently planned and conducted operation in Azov region!’ he said on Telegram.
He later shared a video of the A-50 slowly coming down to earth, with a caption that read: ‘This is exactly what the last flight into the zone of no return looked like.’
He also shared images of the badly damaged tail of the Il-22 scarred by shrapnel, seemingly confirming the stricken aircraft had landed despite the Ukraine strike.
The picture did not show the rest of the aircraft amid reports there had been casualties among the crew.
‘Warriors of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed an enemy long-range radar detection aircraft A-50 and an enemy air control centre Il-22,’ said the Zaluzhnyi Telegram channel.
Russian Telegram channel FighterBomber said of the Il-22 picture: ‘To say that the Il-22 crew are true heroes is to say nothing.’
A senior Ukrainian politician and the deputy head of the country’s parliamentary national security committee, Yuri Mysyagin, said on Monday:
‘At about 21:00 [on Sunday], Ukrainian units fired at two aircraft of the Russian Air Force, namely an A-50 AWACS aircraft and an IL-22, located over the Sea of Azov.
‘The A-50 was shot down, and the IL-22 was shot down, but was in the air and trying to get to the nearest airfield, but disappeared from the radar, after the descent began, in the Kerch area.’
Moscow did not comment on the claims, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters he had ‘no information’ about the incident and that further questions should be directed to the defence ministry.
‘This is for Dnipro! Burn in hell, you inhumans! PS No details yet,’ wrote Ukrainian Air Force Commander General Mykola Oleshchuk (pictured)
A mortar platoon soldier with an 82mm mortar performs a combat mission as Ukrainian soldiers hold their positions in the snow-covered Serebryan Forest in Ukraine
Ukraine’s Azov National Guard Brigade has returned to the front and has engaged in combat in the ongoing war with Russia
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022
The Il-22M command and control plane limped back to Anapa, a small Russian town on the Black Sea, on fire after being hit, with a number of casualties, Ukrainian media reported.
The £260 million A-50 AWACS aircraft disappeared soon after going on patrol over the Kyrylivka area of Zaporizhzhia at 9:10 pm local time.
The A-50 is one of a diminishing number of sophisticated AWACS reconnaissance planes, while the Il-22M likely had on board at least one senior war commander.
Russian Telegram channel Colonelcassad admitted there had been casualties on the aircraft.
Ukraine initially claimed to have downed the planes in the vicinity of the strategically important £3 billion Putin-built Crimean Bridge.
Ukraine said on Monday that it downed two Russian military command aircraft over the Sea of Asov (pictured)
The Sea of Azov lies between Russia and Ukraine, but Moscow controls its entire coast
Reports say the planes have been flying the same routes for months.
RBK-Ukraine cited a source in the Ukrainian armed forces claiming the downing of the A-50, and the likely severe damage to the Il-22M, which recently went through a £3 million modernisation and refit.
‘This is for Dnipro! Burn in hell, you inhumans! PS No details yet,’ wrote Ukrainian Air Force Commander General Mykola Oleshchuk.
Russian Military Informant channel stated: ‘The damaged Il-22 reached the [Anapa] airfield and landed, as evidenced by leaked intercepted conversations on an open frequency, but with the A-50, apparently, everything is much sadder.
‘If the loss of the aircraft is confirmed, it will be a huge setback for domestic aviation since there are only a few such AWACS aircraft in service and are constantly in short supply at the front.’
Russia is believed to have a total of eight A-50 type aircraft, but requires them across its vast border areas.
Commanders have been careful not to use the intelligence-gathering planes too close to the active war zone.
A Russian Il-22 was shot down during a Wagner mercenary mutiny in June 2023.