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Russian Su-24 bomber aircraft 'shot down' in Black Sea near Ukraine's Snake Island

Ukrainian service members install a national flag on Snake Island after recapturing it (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian service members install a national flag on Snake Island after recapturing it (via REUTERS)

A Russian Su-24 bomber aircraft has been shot down in the Black Sea near Snake Island which became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, military chiefs said on Wednesday.

The plane was reportedly heading on an attack mission to the Odesa province of south east Ukraine.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted: “I thank our sky guards. They shot down another Russian combat aircraft near Snake Island in the Black Sea today. It was on its way to strike the Odessa region.

“Minus one for the terrorists. And there will be more.”

He added: “We are strengthening our air defence, particularly in the Odesa region. Gradually, but noticeably. I thank every country that helps us achieve this task.”

Snake Island, which lies around 22 miles off the Ukrainian coast, became a beacon of Ukrainian resistance soon after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion in February 2022.

When Ukrainian defenders on the island were told to surrender by Russia’s navy, one border guard responded: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”

The Ukrainian unit was reported to have been destroyed but later it emerged that some of the forces had survived Russian attacks before the island was seized back.

Putin’s navy has gradually been pushed back, with the flagship of his Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, being sunk in April last year.

While the Russians controlled Snake Island they had effectively been able to enforce a blockade of some Black Sea Ukrainian ports.

America and its allies are discussing a maritime force in the Red Sea after two US ships were hit in missile attacks reportedly by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In the land battles, Russian forces were pressing on with a long-running drive to capture the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka and both sides said they had made gains.

Russian attacks killed four people in eastern and southern regions, including strikes on an aid centre and a medical building in the southern city of Kherson, the target of intensified Russian shelling in the 21-month-old war.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of the military administration in Avdiivka, said Ukrainian forces had secured control of the village of Stepove on the northwestern approaches to the town.

“Yesterday and the day before yesterday, our side carried out very serious stabilisation actions,” Mr Barabash told US-funded Radio Liberty.

“Stepove is now fully controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

The popular Russian war blog Rybar said Russian forces had secured new areas around the village, three miles north of Avdiivka.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War, quoting geopolitical footage from Monday, said Russian forces were occupying improved positions.

Russian forces have been engaged in a slow-moving drive through eastern Ukraine since failing to advance on Kyiv in the early days of the February 2022 full-scale invasion. Since mid-October, they have focused on Avdiivka, a gateway to the Russian held regional centre of Donetsk and known for its vast coking plant.

Mr Barabash stood by his contention that Russian forces had been kept out of the plant, but acknowledged that fighting raged in the “industrial zone” outside the town centre.

The claim and counter claims could not be independently confirmed.

Fighting has also gripped two other largely devastated eastern towns, Ukrainian-held Maryinka and Russian-held Bakhmut.

Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets said Russian forces were trying to move on the northeastern town of Kupiansk, seized by Russian troops after the invasion, but later retaken by Ukraine.

Mr Zgurets, writing on the website of media outlet Espreso TV, said fighting had been going on for several weeks near the village of Synkivka, 9 km from Kupiansk.

In Kherson, three people were killed and at least six injured in new Russian shelling.

“Today, the enemy destroyed one of the humanitarian centres,” Yuri Sobolevskyi, deputy head of Kherson regional council, told national television. “One of our medical institutions was shelled. The shelling is continuing ...and the density is high.”

Officials earlier said four doctors at the medical centre were injured. They said Russia fired two S-300 missiles, also damaging residential buildings nearby.

Russian forces used the “Grad” multiple launch rocket system for a two-hour-long attack on the eastern frontline city of Chasiv Yar, the General Prosecutor’s Office said, killing one and injuring five. Residents, it said, were receiving water and bread from volunteers at the time of the attack.