Ukraine downs Russian strategic bomber for first time
text size

Ukraine downs Russian strategic bomber for first time

Kyiv also stepping up drone attacks on energy infrastructure

A Russian Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber drops bombs during an exercise conducted in Russia in 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
A Russian Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber drops bombs during an exercise conducted in Russia in 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

Ukraine said it shot down a Russian strategic bomber in combat for the first time since the invasion began in 2022, after the plane launched a missile strike that killed at least seven people.

The Tu-22M3, a Soviet-era design, was downed some 300 kilometres inside Russia, the GUR military intelligence agency said on its website. Ukrainian authorities did not specify what kind of weapon brought down the plane.

Russian news agencies said at least one of the pilots was killed and quoted the Defence Ministry as blaming a technical fault.

Kyiv also said it conducted a large-scale drone attack on Russia overnight, targeting energy facilities supporting Russian military-industrial production, a Ukrainian intelligence source told Reuters on Saturday.

At least three power substations and a fuel depot were hit in a joint operation by Ukraine’s SBU security service, the GUR and special forces, the source said.

Losing the Tu-22 signals a potential new vulnerability for President Vladimir Putin’s military, which relies on Cold War-era bombers as the main tool in its missile campaign against Ukraine. The supersonic jet can launch strikes from deep within Russia, leaving it effectively untouchable for Ukraine’s air defences.

The Tu-22 downing was the first successful hit against the bomber type since the start of Russia’s invasion, according to the GUR, which maintained Ukraine’s secrecy about its ability to down targets inside Russia.

The jet was destroyed using the same type of weapon previously used to down an A-50 radio surveillance airplane, the intelligence service said without elaborating. Ukraine reported downing an A-50 near the Sea of Azov in January and another in February over Russia.

The overnight missile strike on Dnipro, meanwhile, damaged several apartment buildings and more than 60 residential homes in the region, as well as infrastructure, regional Governor Serhiy Lysak said.

The city, whose prewar population was almost 1 million people, is Ukraine’s main hub closest to the battlefield. Air defence forces said they downed 15 of the 22 missiles launched as well as all 14 explosive-laden drones.

In another development, the governor of Russia’s western region of Smolensk said on Saturday that a Ukrainian drone hit a fuel depot overnight, setting it on fire, while an attack on the regional centre was repelled.

Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on oil refineries in Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, since the start of the year in an attempt to reduce Moscow’s energy revenues and the amount of money it has to spend on the military.

There are no large oil refineries in the Smolensk region.

The governor, Vasily Anokhin, said on his Telegram messaging app that the drone attacked a fuel-energy facility in the Kardym region at 2am, hitting a reservoir with fuel and oil lubricants. The firefighters were tackling the blaze, he added.

“As a result of the work of the air defence forces, the aircraft were shot down. However, as a result of falling debris, a tank with fuel and oil lubricants caught fire,” he said.

The governor also added that it was not clear if people were injured in the attack.

Do you like the content of this article?