KIEV: The missiles that took down two Ukrainian fighter jets in the volatile east of the former Soviet state were fired from Russia, Ukraine's National and Security Council said Wednesday.
"According to preliminary information, the rockets were launched from Russian territory," the council said in a statement, adding that the Su-25 jets were flying at an altitude of 5,200 metres.
Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets, not far from where a Malaysian airliner was brought down last week in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board.
A spokesperson for Ukraine's military operations said the planes were downed near Savur Mogila, a burial mound in the Shaktersky region where a memorial marks ambushes by the Soviet army on occupying Nazis during World War Two.
He said he did not have any information about the pilots. Igor Strelkov, who is now in charge of the rebel ranks in the eastern city of Donetsk, said the separatists had brought down one plane and that the pilot had ejected. He gave no further details.
However, a second military spokesman told AFP that the jets had been downed at a different location by rockets fired by insurgents. The two pilots managed to parachute out, he said.
"Today in the south of the Lugansk region close to the village of Dmytrivka, pro-Russian fighters shot two Su-25 jets from a missile system," spokesperson Vladislav Seleznev said.
"The pilots took evasive action ... but the planes were hit," he said.
Fierce fighting raged near the rebels' two main centres in Donetsk and nearby Luhansk, where they have been pushed back by Ukrainian government forces, who have taken control of villages and suburbs around the cities.
A spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic told AFP its fighters had shot down the two aircrafts.
An AFP crew trying to reach the scene were turned back by rebels who fired shots near their car some 10 kilometres from Dmytrivka.
The downing of the government jets comes just six days after the insurgents were accused of shooting down the Malaysian passenger plane using a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board.
Pro-Russian rebels battling government troops in the east had previously taken out a string of Ukrainian military aircraft during their 15-week insurgency.
The rebels have denied that they downed flight MH17, accusing the Ukrainian military of being responsible for hitting the jet.
The latest incident came after a ceasefire was declared by both sides in the immediate vicinity of the Boeing 777 crash site, where Malaysian experts and international monitors were examining the airliner's wreckage on Wednesday.
Earlier, the first 40 bodies recovered from MH17 were flown out of the government-held city of Kharkiv bound for Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
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