Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebels claim to have shot down another airplane, this time a Ukrainian MiG-29. The rebels say the plane was shot down by surface-to-air missiles near the city of Yenakievo, located about 25 miles from Donetsk.
Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov says the missile was fired from a Buk, also known as SA-11, system. Pro-Russian rebels have alternatively claimed to have, then claimed not to possess, such Buk anti-aircraft missiles. Prior to the downing of a Malaysian passenger airline last month, pro-Russian rebels boasted across Russian social media about shooting down several Ukrainian military aircraft.
The Buk fires the same type of missiles that brought down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 last month over the skies of eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials. U.S. officials claim to have determined that the missile was fired from territory in Ukraine that is controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Rebel leaders, and Russia, deny involvement in shooting down the passenger plane.
Ukraine’s military lost the Mig-29 fighter plane to missile fire, and rebels also shot down a military helicopter sent to the crash area on a search and rescue mission. Speaking for the Ukrainian military, Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, said that the Mi-8 helicopter had to make a forced landing but the crew was able to exit safely. The Mig-29 was shot out of the skies not far from the town of Horlivka, located about 60 miles from the Russian border. Dmytrashkivsky would not comment on the crew, for fear of alerting the pro-Russian rebels about the crew’s location.
Overnight, the Ukrainian military reported that government forces had clashed with pro-Russian separatists multiple times. In several of those clashes, the Ukrainians said that artillery and missile fire was coming from across the Russian border into Ukraine.
In July, just six days after the shooting down of MH-17, pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian SU-25 jets. Rebel spokesman Sergei Kavtardze, speaking from Ukraine, said the pro-Russian rebels could shoot down an airplane using MANPADS missiles. While being sophisticated weaponry, the shoulder mounted missiles lack the altitude range capable of a Buk system.
The Ukrainian military says that the jets were flying at a distance beyond the capability of the shoulder-fired MANPADS. Kavtardze did not explain how the limited MANPADS were able to take out fighter jets flying at higher altitudes. While neither the government or rebels claims could be verified, pro-Russian rebels were posting about shooting down the jets on Russian language social media sites.
Meanwhile, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary-general, visited Ukraine on Thursday to demonstrate Western support for the beleaguered nation. Rasmussen warned that Russian support to the rebels was growing daily, and he called on the Russians not to use peacekeeping as an excuse for claiming more Ukrainian territory.
While meeting with Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, Rasmussen discussed the idea of a NATO trust fund. He said such a fund would be to bolster the Ukrainian military in the areas of command and control, as well as updating and maintaining field communications.
On Friday Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that Ukraine was ready to place sanctions on several Russian companies and individuals. Yatsenyuk said his government was preparing sanctions against 172 Russian citizens and 65 Russian companies, which the Ukrainian government has identified as financing terror in the east of Ukraine. The sanctions would limit, or outright ban, those companies or individuals from flights over Ukrainian airspace or from using roads in Ukrainian territory. Meanwhile, the Ukraine military stills struggles to keep their pilots safe, knowing that the Russian rebels have the ability to shoot down an airplane in the skies of Ukraine, seemingly at any time.
By Jim Hanemaayer