ANOTHER Russian air force general has been killed after his Su-25 fighter jet was shot down by Ukrainian forces using a Stinger missile.
The death of retired Russian Air Force major general Kanamat Botashev, 63, is thought to be the highest-ranking pilot whose death is known since the war started on February 24.
Before Botashev retired he was the commander of an aviation regiment.
Botashev’s death was confirmed to the BBC by three of his former subordinates who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.
An announcement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on May 22 said a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft had been shot down in the sky over the Luhansk region.
Along with an image released of the burning aircraft, an adviser to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko said: “In the distance, the remnants of the Su-25 shot down by soldiers of the 3rd company of the 80th brigade in the Luhansk region are burning out an hour ago. ‘Stinger’ worked perfectly.”
The report added the pilot did not have time to eject.
One of Botashev’s former colleagues confirmed to the BBC that in Ukraine, the retired general carried out assignments on the Su-25.
According to the former colleague, discussions in one of the Russian telegram channels said: “Today Kanamat died! Popasnaya district, 8:25… The first call of the NAR-s, the second – bombs… Stinger at the exit from the attack, an explosion in the air and … That’s it.”
NAR-s are unguided aircraft missiles.
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Admins of the channel later deleted the comment but other members of the group continued the discussion using the initials CHB.
“Farewell, commander… There are few people on this planet who lived in the sky as much as you do. The sky takes the best, today it took you,” wrote Fighterbomber, an authoritative telegram channel in the circles of Russian military pilots .
Botashev had been a sniper pilot, whose training takes between 10-12 years, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, and costs around $8million (£6.4m).
It is not clear what the retired general was doing in Ukraine or how he came to be flying a Su-25.
However, Russia had launched a recruitment drive at the start of March.
Russian military registration and enlistment offices, patriotic organizations and the mercenary group PMC Wagner have been actively campaigning to attract candidates to fight in Ukraine.
Born in 1959 in Karachay-Cherkessia, Botashev graduated from the Yeysk Higher Military Aviation Institute, qualifying as a fighter-bomber pilot.
However, reports say he was dismissed from the military in 2013 when he was accused of crashing an Su-27 fighter near the city of Petrozavodsk, which he did not have permission to fly.
He then worked as deputy chairman for aviation of the Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy in the Leningrad region.
At least 31 Russian military pilots have died since Russian forces invaded its neighbour, although the real number may be higher.
Major General Vladimir Frolov, deputy commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army, is thought to have been the eighth Russian general to be killed in battle.
The exact details of how and where he died were not disclosed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lost another general in March, Lieutenant-General Andrei Mordvichev, commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army, who was killed in battle at Chornobaivka, near the southern city of Kherson.
It followed the death of Major General Andrei Kolesnikov of the 29th Combined Arms Army and Vitaly Gerasimov, who was killed in fighting outside Kharkiv.
Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky was reportedly shot dead by a sniper at the battle for Hostomel Airfield about 30 miles outside the capital Kyiv in early March.
And General Magomed Tushaev died when his Chechen special forces column, including 56 tanks, was obliterated near Hostomel, north-east of the city.
Major-General Oleg Mityaev, 47, died in Mariupol as well as Lieutenant General Yakov Rezantsev who also died in fighting.
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