An Ukrainain Air Force AN-26, image released on 21 May 2014 (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)

Ukraine: “Latest AN-26 downing more advanced”

An Ukrainain Air Force AN-26, image released on 21 May 2014 (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)
An Ukrainain Air Force AN-26, image released on 21 May 2014 (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)

UPDATE 3 OCTOBER 2014 | The Ukrainian Air Force Antonov AN-26 that crashed on Monday 14 July was downed by a more powerful rocket than previously fielded by pro-Russian separatists, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence claims.

According to a press release the transport aircraft was cruising at more than 21,000 feet, which should normally make it out of reach of most small arms and simpler shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS) used successfully by the separatist forces in the east of Ukraine. Some Ukrainian sources even blame the Russian military to have fired the “more advanced” missile from Russian territory. If true, that would mean the first direct fire from the Russian military in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

However, a Russian general denies that any of the Russian air defence systems fired accidentally (automatically) or on on purpose at the Ukrainian transport plane. Amongst the speculations about the missile: it could have been shot with the latest version of the Russian-made SA-24, with the relatively slow-moving AN-26 maybe just in reach of this MANPADS effective range.

Of the crew of eight on board the AN-26, six managed to bail out and and survive thanks to their parachute. Both pilots were killed while they held on to the controls until the last possible moment to let their fellow crew members escape the crash. The pilots were buried on 1 October 2014. The AN-26 and crew flew with 19 Military Transport Brigade based at Vinnytsia.

Monday’s crash was the second AN-26 lost to hostile fire in six weeks time. On 6 June another Curl – as the NATO name for the type goes – was downed by MANPADS near Slovyansk. The town was later this summer retaken by Ukrainian government forces. Luhansk, the area of Monday’s downing, is already the place with the worst losses for the Ukrainian air forces. One of Ukraine’s six or seven operational Ilyushin IL-76s was shot and destroyed while landing at the city’s airport on 14 June 2014, killing 49 servicemen on board.

According to a Ukrainian military spokesperson the Ukrainian armed forces suffered 258 casualties since what he calls “anti-terrorist” operations in the eastern part of the country since mid-April. Another 922 servicemen were injured, 45 military personnel are held captive by the pro-Russian separatists. There are no clear casualty numbers for the anti-government troops. Kiev estimates the number of civilians killed in the conflict runs into the “several hundreds”.

© 2014 editor Marcel Burger

(compiled by based on official sources)

See also our Overview of the Armed Forces of Ukraine