We shot down Russian spy plane – Ukraine military

 Ukraine’s military says it has shot down a Russian military spy plane over the Sea of Azov, in what analysts say would be a blow to Mos­cow’s air power.

Army chief, Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said the air force had “destroyed” an A-50 long range radar detection aircraft, and an Il-22 control centre plane.

The A-50 detects air defences and coor­dinates targets for Russian jets.

Ukraine has struggled to make signifi­cant recent advances against Russian forces in the south-east.

A briefing from the UK’s Ministry of Defence on 23 February said that Rus­sia “likely” had six operational A-50s in service. The planes can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

The BBC has been unable to verify the attack.

Russian officials said they had “no infor­mation” about the attacks, but prominent pro-war Russian commentators have said the loss of an A-50 would be significant.

One popular military channel, Rybar, said that – if Ukraine’s information about the Russian losses was confirmed – it would be “another black day for the Rus­sian air force”.

Another channel said the Il-22 com­mand centre was hit by Russian “friendly fire”. It reportedly managed to land back in Russia but images posted on social media appeared to show it heavily damaged.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman, Yuri Ihnat, claimed on social media that the Il-22 had been damaged beyond repair.

He also said the A-50 spy plane was “the priority target for us”.

Gen Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram that Ukraine’s air force had “excellently planned and conducted” an operation in the Azov region, south-east of Ukraine.