A military plane has crashed into a residential block of flats in a Russian city, according to residents and local media. The city, Yeysk, is located on the sea of Azov, opposite areas of Russian-occupied Ukraine. Images shared on social media by international news agency BNO show an enormous fireball emerging from the scene after the plane nosedived into it. Both pilots reportedly ejected just moments before the crash, which sparked a massive fire in the nine-story building.
A resident told the Russian state-run TASS news agency: “Ambulances and firefighters are coming from all over the city, helicopters are in the area”.
It is not yet known how many have been killed or injured. Early reports from Russian outlet Baza suggest at least three people were killed and 12 people, including a child, were hospitalised in critical condition.
Interfax quoted the local emergencies ministry as saying five floors of the apartment building were on fire, the upper floors had collapsed and about 45 apartments were damaged. The news agency added that, according to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin had been informed, and that he had ordered all necessary help to be sent to the scene.
According to Russia’s ministry of defence, the plane was an Su-34 military aircraft that had crashed during a training flight from an airfield. One of the ejected pilots, the ministry says, reported that the cause of the crash was one of the engines catching fire during takeoff.
Chief war correspondent for the pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Aleksandr Kots, said the “main version” being assumed was that a bird had gotten into the engine as it took off.
Locals report that there are multiple continued explosions as ammunition stored on the plane is ignited. The fire has also been exacerbated by aviation fuel that has spilled out from the crashed aircraft.
Russia’s state Investigative Committee, which deals with serious crimes, said it had opened a criminal case and sent investigators to the scene. However, it did not confirm what evidence pointed to any potential foul play in the incident.
The Russian ministry of defence said: “On October 17, 2022, while climbing to perform a training flight from the military airfield of the Southern Military District, a Su-34 aircraft crashed. The aircraft crashed within the city of Yeysk. According to the report of the ejected pilots, the cause of the plane crash was the ignition of one of the engines during takeoff. At the site of the crash of the Su-34 in the courtyard of one of the residential areas, the fuel of the aircraft ignited.”
Regional Governor Veniamin Kondratyev said that emergency services were working to put out the fire. He added that precise information about the number of casualties was still being confirmed.
The Governor also stated that the plane was from Russia’s 277th Bombing Regiment.
Former Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak said: “It’s scary to imagine how many dead there will be.”
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Infrastructure across Ukraine has been targeted, with critical buildings being struck by airstrikes in the northern Dnipro and Sumy regions, killing people and leaving hundreds of civilians without power.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the drones strikes were aimed at “terrorising the civilian population” but vowed: “The enemy can attack our cities but it won’t be able to break us.”
The fresh strikes from Russia appear to have been a reaction to the destruction of the Crimean Bridge, a particular humiliation for Putin and which he has branded a “terrorist attack” from Ukraine. Ukraine has denied any involvement, while Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Mr Zelensky, said Ukrainian intelligence believes that Russian forces planned the attack as a pretense to escalate the war – as they have following the blast.