NEAR DMYTRIVKA, Ukraine (AFP) - Pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets in the insurgent-held area where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed, the Ukrainian military said.
“Terrorists have shot down two Ukrainian Su-25 jets,” the press office for Kiev’s military campaign against the insurgents said in a statement.
The planes were hit by missiles fired by rebels close to the village of Dmytrivka, some 45 kilometres south-east of the MH17 crash site towards the Russian border, as they were providing air support for government infantry, the statement said.
The pilots from both jets managed to parachute out, it said, giving no further details about their condition.
A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told AFP its fighters had shot down the two aircraft.
An AFP crew trying to reach the scene were turned back by rebels who fired shots near their car some 10 kilometres from Dmytrivka. The downing of the government jets comes just six days after the insurgents were accused of shooting down the Malaysian passenger plane using a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board.
Pro-Russian rebels battling government troops in the east had previously taken out a string of Ukrainian military aircraft during their 15-week insurgency. The rebels have denied that they downed flight MH17, accusing the Ukrainian military of being responsible for hitting the jet.
The latest incident came after a ceasefire was declared by both sides in the immediate vicinity of the Boeing-777 crash site, where Malaysian experts and international monitors were examining the airliner’s wreckage on Wednesday.
Earlier, the first 40 bodies recovered from MH17 were flown out of the government-held city of Kharkiv bound for Eindhoven in the Netherlands.