Zelenskyy says his forces downed three Russian fighter-bomber jets

Zelenskyy says his forces downed three Russian fighter-bomber jets

Zelenskyy says his forces downed three Russian fighter-bomber jets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and military officials said the country’s forces shot down three Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft on Friday on the southern front, hailing it as a success in the 22-month-old war.

The Russian military made no mention of the incident. But Russian bloggers acknowledged the loss, and analysts suggested U.S.-supplied Patriot missiles had probably been used.

Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.

“Today at noon in the southern sector — minus three Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers!” Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Air Force spokesperson Yuri Ihnat described it on national television as a “brilliantly planned operation.”

“There haven’t been Su-34s for some time in our positive statistics,” he said, citing the model as one of Russia’s most modern aircraft for bombing and other assaults.

Zelenskiy in his nightly video address praised the Odesa region anti-aircraft unit for downing the planes in Kherson region.

The region was occupied in the first days of Moscow’s February 2022 invasion. Ukrainian forces have sought to regain territory and in November established positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.

Eurasia Daily, a Russia-based journal, said the Ukrainian account was plausible. Kyiv could have launched Patriot missiles, which have a range of up to 160 km (100 miles) against high-altitude targets, from the western side of the Dnipro River, it said.

Ukrainian aviation expert Valeriy Romanenko told Ukrainian NV Radio he believed Patriot missiles most likely downed the Russian jets.

“This was a situation there the Russians were…dropping up to 100 bombs in the south. Three were flying together and got caught. They didn’t quite take into account that the Patriot has a range of 160 km for aerodynamic targets,” Romanenko said.

Ukrainian successes have become less frequent since its forces made lightning gains a year ago in retaking Russian-held territory in the northeast and in the south.

A counteroffensive launched in the east and south in June has had limited progress. Zelenskiy acknowledges that gains have been slower than hoped but has dismissed assertions by the military commander in chief, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, that the war has entered a phase of “attrition” requiring a change in tactics.

(With inputs from Reuters)