Ukrainian military plane shot down, pro-Russian separatists take responsibility
By End the Lie
A Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane was shot down on Monday, with pro-Russian separatists taking responsibility for the attack. The Ukrainian government, however, said that the rocket was “probably” fired from Russian territory.
“There are two possibilities under consideration on the basis of a report from the Ukrainian pilots,” Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said. “Either a strike of a ground-based missile fired from a Pantsir missile system or a strike of an . . . air-to-air homing missile fired from a Russian aircraft.”
There was no official word on casualties in the downing of the plane, but a military spokesman told Reuters that he could not confirm that everyone on board was alive.
Pro-Russian separatists claimed that they took four of the crewmembers prisoner, according to The Washington Post. The rebels told Interfax that a total of eight people were on the plane when it was shot down.
“We have enough armaments now that are needed to shoot down an aircraft of this kind. It wasn’t in the least bit a hard task for our militia forces to do,” said Alexei Chmilenko, a separatist leader in Luhansk, to Interfax. “One doesn’t need any of the precision weapons of the latest generation to shoot down an aircraft of this kind.”
Ukrainian officials, however, maintain that the transport plane was flying too high to be shot down by regular surface-to-air missiles.
The government says that the pro-Russian separatists must either be receiving more advanced arms from Russia or that Russia itself shot down the aircraft from its own territory.
This is just the latest in rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with the Russian political establishment calling for an answer on Monday to a weekend cross-border shelling incident with targeted strikes on Ukraine. Russians say the incident involved Ukrainian troops deliberately attacking Russian territory and killing one civilian.
Ukraine denied firing a shell into Russian territory, according to the Associated Press.
Also on Monday, Ukraine accused Russian army officers of fighting with separatists in eastern Ukraine. The government also said that Moscow is building up troops on the border, according to Reuters.
“In the last three days, Ukraine’s armed forces have been attacked with Russian multiple-rocket launchers,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday at a meeting with top Ukrainian security officials, according to the Associated Press.
The rebels said they are holding the Ukrainian military prisoners in Krasnodon, a city in the Luhansk region near the Russian border. Ukrainian defense officials said they are attempting to return the crewmembers to military-controlled territory.
Fighting around Luhansk has intensified, with government forces increasing their efforts to reclaim territory and disrupt rebel lines.
Several villages around Luhansk had been retaken by government troops, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The military also reopened a corridor to their civilian airport.
A resident of Luhansk, identified by the Associated Press only as “Sergei” said that panic gripped the city on Monday after it was reported that Ukrainian paratroopers were coming in and detaining rebel fighters.
Points of exit from Luhansk have been closed and rebels were confiscating cars and belongings of people attempting to flee the city, according to Sergei.