Ukraine claims to have shot down Russian spy plane

Ukraine claimed to have shot down an A-50 long range radar detection aircraft—an important and expensive spy plane whose destruction amounts to a "a blow to Moscow's air power," reports the BBC.

A briefing from the UK's Ministry of Defence on 23 February said that Russia "likely" had six operational A-50s in service. The planes can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. The BBC has been unable to verify the attack. Russian officials said they had "no information" about the attacks, but prominent pro-war Russian commentators have said the loss of an A-50 would be significant. One popular military channel, Rybar, said that – if Ukraine's information about the Russian losses was confirmed – it would be "another black day for the Russian air force".

They also claimed to have downed an Il-22 command plane, but there are a lot of those and Russia claimed it was merely damaged by friendly fire.

Justin Bronk, an air war specialist from the defence think tank Rusi, told the BBC that, if confirmed, the loss of an A-50 would be a "highly operationally significant and embarrassing loss" for Russia's air force. He described the A-50 as a "key command, control and surveillance platform" that provides Russian aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems with "long range early warning and target information about Ukrainian low-flying aircraft". He added that there were "only a small number" of these aircraft within the Russian air force, and "even fewer trained mission crews, meaning that the loss of one would be a major blow".

Things are generally "not looking good for Ukraine," the BBC reports, quoting one expert. Its counterattack is halted, morale is falling, Russian attacks are continuing, and the scale and scope of U.S. support is lapsing after Israel invaded Gaza.