US serviceman among two killed in Ukrainian fighter jet crash
Ukraine's military and the US Air Force said Wednesday that a US serviceman was one of the two pilots killed in a fighter jet crash during military exercises.
The two pilots were aboard a Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 plane when it came down on Tuesday afternoon in the south-west of Ukraine during exercises dubbed Clear Sky 2018.
‘The bodies of the pilots have been found, the crew commander was Colonel Ivan Petrenko,’ the Air Force command of Ukraine's Armed Forces said on its Facebook account.
‘The second crew member was a member of the United States National Guard Air Force,’ it added in an updated report on Wednesday.
US Air Forces in Europe and Africa said on its website that the unnamed American was a member of the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard. He was taking part in a ‘single-aircraft familiarisation flight with a Ukrainian counterpart’.
‘This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,’ said US Major General Clay Garrison, the director of Clear Sky exercise.
Ukrainian investigators on Wednesday were busy probing the circumstances of the crash.
‘The interrogation of witnesses regarding the circumstances of the departure of the board, its technical condition at the time of departure is under way,’ Ukraine's military prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Clear Sky 2018 began on October 8 in Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia regions and runs until Friday. The drills involve 950 personnel from nine nations, including the US, Ukraine, and several European countries.
They involve US fighter and transport planes training with about 30 Ukrainian aircraft.
The drills are held amid the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country which has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border. Moscow has denied the claims despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
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