Ukraine and Russia are still fighting for control of the skies 5 days into the war, US defense official says
Julie Coleman – February 28, 2022
- A senior US official said Ukraine’s airspace remains contested, contradicting Moscow’s claims.
- Russia was expected to swiftly knock out Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, but that has not happened.
- Ukraine has claimed to have shot down Russian fighter jets, helicopters, and even troop transport planes.
Despite Russian claims to the contrary, Ukraine’s airspace remains contested as the country’s forces fight to repel Russian aggression, a senior US defense official said on Monday during an off-camera press briefing.
“The Russians have not achieved air superiority over the whole country,” the official told reporters. “Ukrainian air defenses remain intact and viable in terms of aircraft and missile defense systems, and they’re engaged.”
“It’s a contested airspace, and it’s a very dynamic airspace,” the official continued, contradicting Moscow’s claims this morning that Russia has “total air superiority” over Ukraine.
It has been five days since Russia launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine, attacking the country from several directions and pushing towards Kyiv, the capital city. Russian forces have conducted bombardments of positions in and around Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, forcing numerous civilians to take shelter in basements and metro stations.
One video uploaded to Twitter on Monday shows incoming and outgoing fire over Kyiv, which appears consistent with an engagement between aviation assets and air-defense systems.
Another video posted on social media Monday appeared to show surface-to-air missiles targeting air assets, purportedly over Kyiv.
In recent days, Ukraine has claimed to have shot down fighters, helicopters, and even transport planes. Early in the fighting against Russia, for instance, Ukraine’s armed forces said that they had downed five Russian aircraft and a helicopter, CNN reported, but the Russian military denied these claims.
Russia only recently acknowledged taking losses in the conflict with Ukraine, but it insists that Ukrainian losses are significantly worse than its own.
A video that was released by Ukraine’s military last Thursday seemed to show one helicopter being shot down over Hostomel, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, and Ukraine’s Armed Forces posted a video of what was said to be a damaged Russian helicopter in that area.
Ukraine’s top general Valeriy Zaluzhiny claimed Friday that the country’s armed forces shot down a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 plane near Kyiv, the Kyiv Independent reported.
The Il-76 is mainly used for heavy transport and paratrooper operations and could carry up to 150 soldiers, according to the Kyiv Independent.
The Ukrainian military, according to The War Zone, also said it shot down a helicopter and a Su-25 close-air support aircraft with an S-300 missile system.
Russia was expected to quickly eliminate Ukraine’s air defense capabilities earlier in the conflict, but so far that does not appear to have happened.