Ukraine Says Military Plane Shot at From Russian-Occupied Oil Rig

An An-26 airplane
An An-26 airplane / Sputnik via AP

A Ukrainian official said Wednesday that a military cargo plane belonging to Kiev was shot at from a Russian-occupied oil rig in the Black Sea, an accusation that was denied by Moscow.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak wrote on Facebook that the plane was damaged but the crew unharmed, according to Reuters. He said that the aircraft was able to land safely after coming under fire.

A spokesman for the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, meanwhile, accused the Ukrainian Navy An-26 aircraft of making two low-altitude provocative passes of Russian drilling towers in the Black Sea, according to Moscow's TASS news agency. He denied allegations that the plane was fired at but said a security guard gave flash signals from a signal pistol to prevent the plane from crashing into the drilling tower.

"This morning, between 11:30 and 12:00 a.m. Moscow time, an An-26 plane of the Ukrainian armed forces with board No. 53 made two clearly provocative passes at an extremely low altitude near Russian oil rigs Tavrida and Crimea-1 in the Black Sea," the spokesman said.

"All the statements by the Ukrainian side that the An-26 plane was allegedly fired at are an absolute lie," he said. "During the Ukrainian An-26's second pass, an employee of the drilling platform's security guard gave four flash signals from a signal pistol to prevent a possible air crash from collision with the drilling tower."

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have run high over the persisting fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian military forces. There has been an uptick in violence this week, which Ukrainian officials attributed to attacks by separatists on government positions in the town of Avdiivka. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday again urged both sides to abide by a ceasefire.

Russia first annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, precipitating sanctions from the U.S. and European Union.