Pro-Russia insurgents say that they have conducted a first air strike on Ukrainian forces.
According to reports on several news outlets, including the Russian RIA-Novosti press agency, a Su-25 allegedly serving in the People’s Republic of h aviation component attacked a Ukrainian Army convoy which was reinforcing the Ukrainian units surrounded in Delbatseve on Feb. 2.
The news, provided by the spokesperson of the People’s Republic of Luhansk spread through the social media even though Kiev authorities have not confirmed the air strike.
— Gleb Bazov (@gbazov) February 2, 2015
The RIA Agency claims that the Su-25 was captured after the separatists damaged it and forced it to land within their territory last summer.
A video shot by separatists has popped up on Youtube recently: it shows a Su-25 Frogfoot attack plane and an L-29 trainer wheeled out of the Luhansk aviation museum being repainted with the markings of the so-called Novorossiya Air Force and readied for flight ops.
The footage also shows a pilot who introduces himself as a Georgian volunteer who joined the pro-Russia militia fo fight fascism. In spite of the claims that the aircraft could reach Kiev and the scene of the jets carrying bombs and rocket launchers, and taxing at the museum, it is almost impossible that a quite obsolete Su-25 or L-29 plane could be brought back to operational status and readied for combat missions is at least scarce.
Besides the propaganda purposes of the video, there is someone who believes the Su-25s got a new paint and some media hype to act as a decoy for a direct involvement of Russian Air Force Frogfoot jets in the conflict: according to such speculations, Moscow’s Su-25s could freely operate in eastern Ukraine pretending to be some of the jets resuscitated at the Luhansk aviation museum and operated by the self-proclamed NAF.
Furthermore, SputnikNews said that two Ukrainian Su-25s were shot down on Feb. 3 in the Delbatseve area, a report that has been denied by Kiev. Anyway, due to the large extent of losses and general bad shape of its fleet, the Ukrainian Air Force activities in the eastern part of the country have significantly decreased. According to some reports the Russians have created an umbrella of air defenses, which prevents the Ukrainians from flying over the territories controlled by the separatists.
Written with David Cenciotti
Image credit: Ukrainian Air Force