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Ukraine claims to shoot down Russian bomber - Moscow denies it

FILE - Russian Tu-22M-3 long-range bombers fly during the Victory Day military parade marking 71 years after the victory in WWII in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, 2016.
FILE - Russian Tu-22M-3 long-range bombers fly during the Victory Day military parade marking 71 years after the victory in WWII in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, 2016. Copyright AP/Copyright 2016 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright AP/Copyright 2016 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Ukraine says it shot down a strategic Russian bomber on Friday, but Russia claims the plane crashed in a sparsely populated area due to malfunction.

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Ukraine has said it shot down a Russian bomber on Friday. 

However, Moscow officials said the plane crashed “in a deserted area” in Russia’s southern region of Stavropol following a malfunction.

Euronews cannot independently verify either side's claim.  

Russia has recently gone on the offensive in south and eastern Ukraine, amid improved weather conditions and delays in western arms deliveries to Kyiv.

While Russia’s air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine’s, sophisticated missile systems provided by Kyiv’s Western allies are a major threat to Russian aviation.

The Ukrainian report said military intelligence cooperated with the air force to bring down the Tu-22M3 bomber with anti-aircraft missiles. 

Russia commonly uses the bomber - which can also carry nuclear warheads - to fire Kh-22 cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from inside its airspace.

Russian authorities say three crewmembers were rescued after ejecting from the aircraft, and the search for a fourth is taking place. 

Previous Ukrainian claims of shooting down Russian warplanes during their more than two-year war have met with silence or denials from Moscow.

On Christmas Eve, Ukraine claimed to have shot down two Russian fighter jets. 

In January, the Ukrainian air force said it shot down a Russian early warning and control plane and a key command centre aircraft that relays information to troops on the ground, in what appeared to be a significant blow for the Kremlin’s forces. 

The next month, Ukraine said it knocked out another early warning and control plane.

Again in January, Moscow accused Kyiv of shooting down a Russian military transport plane that was carrying Ukrainian POWs who were headed for a prisoner swap.

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