UPDATED: 2 Ukrainian military fighter jets shot down
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that two military planes have been shot down in the eastern part of the country, where the government is waging a battle against pro-Russia separatists.
The pilots of the Su-25 fighter aircraft ejected from the planes, the Ukrainian government said, but their whereabouts are unknown.
More information is expected at a Ukrainian military briefing later Wednesday afternoon.
The news comes less than a week after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a missile suspected to have been fired by separatists.
The pro-Russia paramilitary units have been firing at jets above eastern Ukraine airspace in recent months, bringing down two military transport planes in the days before the Malaysia Airlines disaster. But, if confirmed, the attack Wednesday would be the first strike in the area since the downing of the commercial jet.
Despite the general proximity to the Malaysia Airlines crash site, one of the reported shootdowns Wednesday, over Lysychansk, is actually about 100 miles north of Grabovo, where much of the Malaysian plane fell from the skies last week.
The separatists have denied any involvement in the Malaysia Airlines strike, and Russia has denied supplying them with the weapons systems required for such an attack. However, the U.S. and other nations believe that Russia has been providing the separatists with surface-to-air missile systems, including the kind suspected in the Malaysia Airlines downing, and have demanded that Moscow halt support of the breakaway group.
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