Thirteen people have died including three children and three adults who jumped from a burning apartment block after a Russian military jet crashed next to the building and set it on fire.
A Sukhoi 34 fighter-bomber taking off from an airfield in the southern Russian city of Yeysk, near the border with Ukraine, on Monday evening plunged from the sky moments later with one engine on fire – slamming into the ground in front of an apartment block and dousing the building in burning fuel.
Firefighters who spent the night dousing the flames said early Tuesday that 13 people had been killed in the ensuing blaze with another 68 rescued from the block, 19 of whom required treatment for various injuries.
Both pilots managed to eject safely, with footage showing one of them lying on the ground nearby still attached to his parachute. The Russian military said the men were taking part in training when the crash happened, and the stranded pilot can be heard denying the craft was shot down as people try to help him.
The crash is yet another humiliating loss for Putin’s beleaguered air force which has now suffered ten non-combat crashes since the start of the war. His pilots have also failed to destroy Ukraine’s much-smaller air force and are limited to operating behind Russian lines after failing to take out Kyiv’s air defences.
This is the extraordinary moment a Russian Su-34 fighter/bomber jet crashed next to an apartment block in the city of Yeysk yesterday evening, setting the building on fire as the pilots ejected (right)
Video showed one of the pilots on the floor and still attached to his parachute shortly after the crash (left) and right, denying the plane was shot down as people try to help him
Damage is seen to an apartment block in the Russian city of Yeysky after a military jet crashed close by – including one wheel of the aircraft embedded in the side of the building (centre left)
The chassis of a Sukhoi Su-34 military jet sticks out of a partially destroyed nine-storey apartment building after it crashed in the courtyard of a residential area in the town of Yeysk
Firefighters who spent the night extinguishing a blaze in the apartment block said early Tuesday that 13 people had died in the fire, including three children and three adults who jumped from the top floor
Russia’s Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft
The Sukhoi Su-34 is a Russian-made supersonic fighter-bomber aircraft.
It was developed in the 1990s to replace its ageing predecessor, the Su-24, but did not enter widespread use with Russia’s air force until well into the 2000s.
The Su-34 is considered a fairly capable multirole aircraft, in that it is primarily designed to strike ground and surface targets with missiles and bombs, but can also engage in air-to-air combat missions.
However, it has a reputation for being accident prone.
On two separate occasions in 2019, two pairs of Su-34s collided during training exercises, and a fifth jet crashed during a training mission in 2020.
Footage of the pilot lying on the ground also appears to capture the sound of explosions going off in the background, sparking rumours on Russian social media that the plane was actually flying a combat mission and ammunition detonated after it came down.
However, Krasnodar regional governor Veniamin Kondratyev denied this – saying the explosions were the sound of fuel tanks bursting.
Russian outlet Zvezdanews confirmed the fire was eventually extinguished with the help of 410 firefighters and emergency services personnel.
Deputy governor Anna Minkova confirmed that additional beds were being prepared to receive injured civilians, adding: ‘Specialists of the burn department from regional clinical hospitals have been sent to Yeysk.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed of the fire and ordered ‘all necessary assistance be given to casualties from the military plane incident,’ the Kremlin told the state-run news agency TASS.
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.’
Chief war correspondent for the pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda Aleksandr Kots specified the aircraft was an Su-34 from Russia’s 277th Bombing Aviation Regiment.
‘So far, the main version is that it was birds getting into the engines at takeoff,’ Kots claimed.
Firefighters, helicopters and ambulances rushed to the scene of the nine-floor apartment block, with governor Kondratyev declaring that all regional emergency services were working to put out the fire.
‘The fire spread to a few floors. According to preliminary information, 17 flats have been affected,’ Kondratyev said.
Russia’s investigative committee, which investigates serious crimes, said it opened a criminal investigation into the crash.
Local authorities said that the massive blaze engulfed several floors of an apartment building and at least 15 apartments were affected.
The aircraft ploughed into the block of flats in Yeysk, a resort city on the Sea of Azov near Crimea
A Russian Su-34 warplane crashed in Yeysk, Krasnodar region, bordering Ukraine, causing an apartment block inferno
Several stories of the apartment block could be seen alight as huge flames ripped through the residential building
The Su-34 bomber was on a training flight when it malfunctioned and ploughed into the block of flats in Yeysk, a resort city on the Sea of Azov near Crimea
The first to fifth floors of the nine storey block of flats were set ablaze, eyewitnesses said, while one report from the scene said that emergency services were struggling to extinguish the flames which had spread throughout the apartment block, exacerbated by the aviation fuel spewed across the crash site.
Oksana, a local resident who declined to give her last name, said the area was cordoned off.
‘There could be an explosion. Everything is burning inside. there is smoke,’ she told AFP. ‘I’m in shock obviously. My child was alone at home. We already used to go to sleep with fear everyday – Mariupol is just across from us,’ she said, referring to the Ukrainian port city just across the Sea of Azov which withstood months of heavy bombardment earlier in the war.
Former Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak said: ‘It’s scary to imagine how many dead there will be.’
Just a few hundred miles across the border from Yeysk, Ukrainian civilians were experiencing more terror today as kamikaze drones made by Iran and launched by Russia attacked Kyiv this morning.
At least five explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital, starting around 3.30am local time as multiple waves of Shahed-136 drones – 28 in total – dodged air defences and slammed into the city, with police and armed forces resorting to firing machine guns into the air in an attempt to bring them down.
One of the drones bore the phrase ‘for Belgorod’ – a Russian city that acts as a staging ground for attacks on Ukraine which was shelled at the weekend.
It was also the scene of a gun attack on a military barracks that saw at least 11 soldiers killed by two conscripts on Saturday.
One strike appeared to target the city’s heating network, hitting an operations centre. Another slammed into a four-story residential building, ripping a large hole in it and collapsing at least three apartments on top of each other.
Three people were killed there with 19 were rescued from the rubble, four of them wounded. Rescue workers searching for victims scrambled over the debris from which gray smoke billowed.
Airstrikes then hit critical infrastructure in the Dnipro and Sumy regions – in the centre and north of Ukraine – killing ‘several’ people while leaving hundreds of villages without power, prime minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Suicide drones also struck the port city of Mykolaiv late Sunday night, setting sunflower oil storage tanks alight.
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.’
It comes a week after a huge barrage of Russian missiles and Iranian-made kamikaze drones targeted virtually every major Ukrainian city, destroying infrastructure and killing civilians after a blast on the Crimean Bridge.
Thick plumes of black smoke were seen billowing from the crash site. The number of casualties has not yet been specified
The engine caught fire shortly after take-off and both crewmembers ejected moments before the smash and landed safely
Firefighters helicopters and ambulances rushed to the scene of the nine-floor apartment block
The Sukhoi Su-34 (file pic) is a Russian-made supersonic fighter-bomber aircraft. It is considered a fairly capable multirole jet that can be used to strike targets as a bomber or engage in air-to-air combat, but it has a questionable safety record with several crashes in training exercises in recent years