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Ukraine Claims Russian Bomber 04/19 06:40

   Ukraine's air force claimed Friday it shot down a Russian strategic bomber, 
but Moscow officials said the plane crashed in a sparsely populated area due to 
a malfunction after a combat mission.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's air force claimed Friday it shot down a 
Russian strategic bomber, but Moscow officials said the plane crashed in a 
sparsely populated area due to a malfunction after a combat mission.

   Neither claim could be independently verified. Previous Ukrainian claims of 
shooting down Russian warplanes during their more than two-year war have met 
with silence or denials from Moscow.

   Meanwhile, Russian missiles struck cities in the central Dnipro region of 
Ukraine, killing eight people, including a 14-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy, 
and injuring 28, local officials said.

   Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated Kyiv officials' almost daily 
appeals for more Western air defense systems, again drawing a parallel with how 
Israel blunted a recent Iranian attack.

   Missile and drone attacks can be thwarted, he wrote on social platform X: 
"This has been demonstrated in the skies over the Middle East, and it should 
also work in Europe."

   Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba added: "Children must not be killed in 
airstrikes in modern Europe."

   Russia's air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine's, but sophisticated 
missile systems provided by Kyiv's Western partners are a major threat to 
Russian aviation as the Kremlin's forces slowly push forward along the around 
1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in what has become a grinding war of 
attrition. Ukrainian officials say they expect a major Russian offensive in the 
summer.

   Ukraine said the air force and military intelligence cooperated to bring 
down the Tu-22M3 bomber with anti-aircraft missiles. Russia commonly uses the 
bomber to fire Kh-22 cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from inside its own 
airspace. The plane can also carry nuclear warheads.

   The Russian defense ministry said the warplane crashed "in a deserted area" 
in the southern region of Stavropol, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the 
Ukrainian border.

   Three crew members were rescued after ejecting from the aircraft, and the 
search for a fourth is taking place, according to the ministry. But Stavropol 
Gov. Vladimir Vladimirov said one of the rescued pilots died.

   On Christmas Eve, Ukraine claimed to have shot down two Russian fighter 
jets. In January, the Ukrainian air force said it shot down a Russian early 
warning and control plane and a key command center aircraft that relays 
information to troops on the ground, in what appeared to be a significant blow 
for the Kremlin's forces. The next month, Ukraine said it knocked out another 
early warning and control plane.

   Also in January, Moscow accused Kyiv of shooting down a Russian military 
transport plane that was carrying Ukrainian POWs who were headed for a prisoner 
swap.

   Russian forces overnight conducted a combined aerial attack with the use of 
22 missiles of various types and 14 Shahed drones during the night, the 
Ukrainian air force said. All the drones and 15 of the missiles were 
intercepted, it said.

   The attack hit urban areas as well as train infrastructure in the Dnipro 
region, Ukraine's National Railway Operator said. Among those killed in the 
strikes was employee Oksana Storozhenko, the mother of two teenage sons, it 
said.

 
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