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Russia shot down its own advanced fighter bomber, Ukraine claims

A Russian Su-34 Fullback at an airshow in 2011. (Photo by Oleg Belyakov, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
July 19, 2022

The Russian military has shot down one of its own Su-34 Fullback fighter bombers, according to Ukrainian military sources.

On Monday, video emerged purporting to show the wreckage of a Su-34 Fullback, an advanced fighter-bomber currently flown exclusively by the Russian Air Force. A Ukrainian military Telegram channel subsequently claimed the Russian aircraft was shot down by its own allied air defense systems, Newsweek reported.

Ukraine Weapons Tracker tweeted the footage of the purported Su-34 wreckage with the caption “#Ukraine: A Russian Su-34 strike aircraft was shot down, likely in the vicinity of Alchevsk, #Luhansk Oblast. According to preliminary information, it was likely to be a case of friendly fire.”

There is not yet an official admission by the Russian side that either Russian or Russian-allied Ukrainian separatists shot down one of Russia’s own Su-34s, however Russian war correspondent Evgeny Poddubny shared a video of an explosion in the night sky over the Russian-occupied Ukrainian town of Alchevsk on Monday, with the caption, “Last night, the air defense crew of the allied forces destroyed a target in the sky over Alchevsk (LPR). The nature of the target is not clear. The burning ball fell to the ground for more than a minute.”

Poddubny is a correspondent for the state-run Russia 1 news channel and was sanctioned by the United Kingdom in May on accusations of spreading disinformation and propaganda promoting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Policy Research Institute senior fellow Rob Lee shared Poddubny’s video on Twitter.

The Su-34 entered Russian service in 2014, according to Air Force technology. Russia state media publications have repeatedly touted the advanced aircraft’s successes throughout the war in Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Military Watch Magazine reported the Russian Air Force just received the first of its latest and most advanced variant of the Su-34, known as the Su-34M. Observers with the Dutch Aviation Society who looked at the footage of the wreckage of the aircraft, claimed the destroyed aircraft’s markings match those of RF-95890, a Su-34M variant with improved avionics, radar, communications, electronic warfare and weapons systems.

If the Dutch Aviation Society’s claims are accurate, the wreckage seen on the ground is of one of the few Su-34Ms currently in Russian service, and just days into its service life.

Newsweek reported Russian state media sites have claimed each Su-34 costs about $36 million.

According to Oryx — an organization that collects photographic documentation of each piece of Russian military equipment destroyed in the war in Ukraine — Russia has had 36 fixed-winged aircraft destroyed and another damaged in four and a half months of fighting in Ukraine. The reported losses include 17 Su-25 ground attack jets, five Su-30SM multirole fighters, a Su-35S multirole fighter, 11 Su-34 fighter bombers, an An-26 transport aircraft and two more unknown jets that could be Su-30s Su-34s or Su-35s.