A Kremlin military plane has crashed into a high-rise residential building in Russia causing a huge fireball explosion.
The Su-34 bomber was on a training flight when it malfunctioned and ploughed into the block of flats in Yeysk, a resort city in the Krasnodar region near Crimea.
The engine caught fire shortly after take-off and both crewmembers ejected moments before the aircraft nosedived directly into the civilian building.
An incredible image posted to social media showed one pilot’s fully-deployed parachute drifting to the ground, illuminated by a huge wall of flames in the background.
Four floors of the building are still ablaze after tons of fuel exploded on impact, with flames spanning 2,000sq metres still ripping through the apartment block.
It was not immediately clear how many casualties there were, but early reports from Russian outlet Baza suggest at least three people were killed and 12 people, including a child, were hospitalised in critical condition.
Krasnodar regional governor Kondratyev, 52, confirmed via his Telegram channel that he was at the scene of the incident, but had no immediate information about casualties.
Deputy governor Anna Minkova meanwhile 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.’
Unconfirmed photos circulating on social media show the dramatic fireball ripping through the building as a fully-deployed parachute floats to the ground nearby (circled)
The aircraft ploughed into the block of flats in Yeysk, a resort city on the Sea of Azov near Crimea
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
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.
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.
Regional Gov. Veniamin Kondratyev said that all regional emergency services were working to put out the fire.
Local authorities said that the massive blaze engulfed several floors of an apartment building and at least 15 apartments were affected.
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.
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.
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
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.