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Ukraine reports shooting down two Russian command planes, Russian experts suggest friendly fire, crew of one confirmed dead

On Sunday, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) announced the destruction of two Russian military aircraft, a Beriev A-50 spy plane and an Ilyushin Il-22 airborne command post, in the Sea of Azov area, which lies between Ukraine and Russia, north of the Crimea Peninsula and the Black Sea.

RBC-Ukraine and several other Ukrainian media outlets reported the downing of a Russian A-50 command aircraft over the Sea of Azov on January 14, citing an unnamed source in the Ukrainian military. The RBC-Ukraine source said an Il-22 command aircraft was also hit and damaged, calling in for an emergency landing at an airport in Anapa.

Pro-Russian military Telegram channels also reported the loss of the planes, suggesting that they had been mistakenly shot down by Russian air defense forces. Helicopterpilot, a Telegram channel associated with Russia’s Army Aviation, wrote that the Il-22 landed at a civilian airfield “with damage and several injured crew members.”

The damaged Il-22
The damaged Il-22
Source: Fighterbomber Telegram channel

On Monday, AFU Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi officially announced that the A-50 and Il-22 had been “destroyed” in the Sea of Azov area. Importantly, the general did not use the word “shoot down,” but wrote that the planes were destroyed as a result of an “operation” carried out by the Ukrainian Air Force.

“I thank the Air Force for a perfectly planned and executed operation in the Pryazovia region,” Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram.

Zaluzhnyi published a video on Telegram showing the movement of the A-50 and Il-22. The footage shows the A-50 falling off the radar near the Berdiansk Spit. The second plane’s marker can be seen attempting to quickly leave the area, indicating it could be the Il-22 that managed to land.

Russian authorities have not commented on the reports of the loss of the two military aircraft.

Ivan Karpov, an independent military expert, told The Insider that he believes the planes were shot down by Russian forces by mistake:

“They were shot down by their own [forces]. At the time, there was a Ukrainian attack on Berdiansk [a city in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Region — The Insider] and on the Crimean bridge. Russian air defense forces fired on Ukrainian S-200 SAM missiles and, as I understand it, [the Russian missiles] re-acquired their targets. The explosion only damaged the [Il-22], as it’s equipped with powerful electronic warfare equipment that directed the missile 500 meters away.
The Patriot SAMs in service with the AFU would not have been able to reach the aircraft at that distance. It would have to be fired directly from the front line, and then the probability of a hit would be very low.”

The A-50 was shot down, killing its entire crew, according to a source that spoke to The Insider on conditions of anonymity. It is currently unclear as to how many people were on board. The A-50’s technical specifications state that its flight crew consists of 5 people, while its tactical crew is made up of 10 people.

The A-50 aircraft provides several critical functions for Russia’s ongoing military actions in Ukraine, such as detecting air defense systems, guided missiles, and coordinating targets for Russian fighter jets.

The Il-22 is an airborne command post, overseeing military operations and sending radio signals to troops on the front line. The Russian Aerospace Forces reportedly have a dozen such planes.

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