Separatists shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets in the same eastern region where Malaysian Air flight MH17 was destroyed, the government said.
Rebels downed two SU-25 fighters in the Donetsk region, Defense Ministry Spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkovsky said by phone. They were hit from a rebel missile defense system over the village of Dmytrivka. The pilots ejected and their whereabouts are unknown, the ministry said on Facebook.
The incident comes nearly a week after MH17 was hit by a missile that the U.S. says was likely fired from a Russian- supplied launcher. If verified, it raises the question of whether President Vladimir Putin’s military is still allowing the pro-Russian rebels access to weaponry capable of downing fighter jets.
Insurgents also have used less advanced anti-aircraft weapons which could be used to target jets flying low for surveillance purposes.
“This shootdown shows the separatists are pressing ahead even as the Ukrainian army advances,” Joerg Forbrig, senior program officer for central and eastern Europe at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said by phone today. “The rebels are clearly determined to resist and Russia is determined to help them.”