In one of the worst days for Russia’s air force since the start of the war in Ukraine, four aircraft were shot down today inside Russia’s borders, including two planes and a pair of helicopters. 

All four aircraft went down on Saturday in the Bryansk region of western Russia, near the Ukrainian border. They include a Su-34 fighter-bomber jet, a Su-35 fighter jet and two Mi-8 transport helicopters. They were on their way into Ukraine, in part to carry out bombing raids. Video taken of the planes crashing show the Su-34 on fire as it plummeted to the ground.

It’s unclear who shot down the aircraft, apparently with anti-air munitions. It’s also unclear if any of the crew survived and how many casualties there are. 

The four downings mark the biggest aerial losses in a day for Russia since the first week of its invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. Although Russia has not eliminated Ukraine’s air force and air defenses, it has been able to carry out attacks in the skies. Saturday’s losses are apparently the first time Russian aircraft have been shot down inside Russia. 

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The four Russian losses also come a day after a Russian helicopter went down in Crimea, killing two pilots on an apparent training flight. 

The shoot downs also happened after Ukraine used newly supplied British Storm Shadow missiles for the first time on Friday, May 12. The long-range cruise missiles hit two industrial sites in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, in the Luhansk region. Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that both Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down after firing, and that the missiles hit civilian sites.

The air-launched Storm Shadow missiles have the ability to reach Russia itself, but British Defence Minister Ben Wallace has said that Ukraine promised to use them only on targets within its own borders. They are also the first long-range cruise missiles supplied by Western nations to Ukraine, although other nations have donated multiple other missiles, including American Patriot missile systems. 

Ukraine has been able to repeatedly strike inside Russian-controlled territory for several months, hitting military and industrial sites. Ukrainian forces also used drones to damage part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Crimea. 

Although the fighting has been near Russia’s border, there have not been many attacks inside Russia proper. However, there have been cases of internal violence in Russia since the war started. One insider attack in October killed 11 people and left 15 others injured at a military facility.  

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