Late on Thursday, a Russian Su-34 twin-engine fighter bomber was performing a flight over the city of Belgorod, 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, when an air ordnance was “accidentally” dropped. The bomb hit a Russian city with more than 400,000 people, creating a crater 40 meters (130 feet) wide, damaging several buildings, and even blowing a car onto a roof. State media reported the incident as an “accidental” release of air ordnance.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, “At around 22:15 Moscow time on April 20, when a Su-34 plane of the Russian Aerospace Forces was performing a flight above the city of Belgorod, an emergency release of an air ordnance occurred,” as per TASS news agency.
In a Telegram post, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region, reported that a massive impact crater with a radius of 20 meters resulted from an incident at the intersection of one of the central streets. According to RIA Novosti, an overturned car fell on the roof of a store. Belgorod Mayor Valentin Demidov stated on his Telegram channel that the blast damaged several apartment buildings. Gladkov confirmed that two individuals were injured in the explosion.
Last December, Russian state media proudly announced the delivery of a “new batch of…frontline bombers” to their armed forces for use against Ukraine. While the exact number of delivered planes was not disclosed, the Su-34 warplanes were touted explicitly as the primary strike power of Russian frontline aircraft.
The TASS report emphasized the upgraded capabilities of the Su-34, including extended combat abilities that allow for advanced air-launched munitions, a more fantastic range for targeting ground and naval threats, and increased accuracy in bombing runs. These warplanes are equipped to carry various munitions, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and guided and unguided bombs.
Details of Belgorod Munition Drop by Russian State Media Remain Unknown.
Late Thursday, Russian state media reported an unconfirmed munition drop in Belgorod, but the nature of the munition remains undisclosed. This incident comes after Moscow’s Su-34 fleet experienced significant losses since the onset of the war, with estimates suggesting 10% or more were destroyed. Oryx, a Netherlands-based open-source intelligence website, claims visual evidence of 19 Su-34 planes lost in combat and non-combat situations.
Analyst says the circumstances of the event are ‘odd.’
Peter Layton, a former Royal Australian Air Force officer and visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, explained that a pilot might choose to jettison bombs if their aircraft lost power or if an engine failed, as in the case of the Su-34 incident on Thursday. However, Layton described the incident as “odd” for several reasons.
Firstly, the munition exploded, which is unusual since, in emergencies, the artillery is typically released in a “safe” mode to prevent detonation unless the bomb’s explosive filling is particularly sensitive to shock.
Secondly, a pilot would usually drop a bomb in an unpopulated area. The fact that the bomb hit the town center, rather than the countryside, suggests a level of precision that is unexpected, Layton remarked.
Concerning the possibility of a problem, it is expected for a warplane to release all of its munitions rather than just one. “It’s possible they did, but perhaps only one exploded,” Layton suggested.
Since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in February 2022, there have been numerous bombings and explosions in the Belgorod region.
According to a Telegram post by Gladkov, a village on the border with Ukraine in the region was hit by Kyiv’s forces earlier this week. Local media, citing an anonymous source, reported that two drones dropped small bombs at the local thermal power plants.
While Ukraine has not confirmed its involvement in the incident, it has been reported by local sources.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, Andrii Yusov, stated in a televised interview on Monday that they cannot confirm or deny Ukraine’s involvement.
Yusov also commented that the Russian government should accept that their aggressive war has rendered no safe spaces within their territory. He added that the effects of the war had reached every supporter of the Russian regime and every individual associated with the fascist ideology.