Separatists in eastern Ukraine say they’ve downed a military aircraft in Horlivka, roughly 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) from Debaltseve, where rebels and national troops are engaged in an intense battle. Officials from the breakaway People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR) say they brought down a Sukhoi Su-25 jet that allegedly took off from an airfield in Melitopol.
DNR officials also claim to have downed a Ukrainian military helicopter within the past few days, though they only made this announcement today.
Separatists in Lugansk also announced today that they shot down a Ukrainian jet, this one over the town of Irmino. Rebels say the pilot managed to eject and a manhunt is now underway.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denies the loss of any military aircraft near Debaltseve, saying on Facebook that inclimate weather prevented any aerial operations yesterday.
“Yesterday, rebels shot down an enemy aircraft flying in the direction of Horlivka,” the Deputy Commander of DNR’s Defense Ministry said. “A few days earlier, a helicopter was also downed, but we’ve said nothing about it so far, as we’ve yet to verify this information. Any information we provide [to the public] has to be 100 percent.”
On July 17, 2014, hours before learning that international passenger flight Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had crashed outside Donetsk, the Russian news agency TASS reported that separatists shot down a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane.