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Pro-Russian separatists shoot down Ukranian jet, hit two copters

By Lindsay Isaac, CNN
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 2202 GMT (0602 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pro-Russian separatists hit two helicopters, Ukranian military confirms
  • NEW: A Ukranian military jet also was struck on Wednesday
  • Another Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down on Sunday
  • Ukraine continues a battle with pro-Russian rebels in the country's east

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- Pro-Russian separatists struck two helicopters as well as a jet with portable air defense systems Wednesday in the Luhansk region of Ukraine.

A source within the Ukrainian military confirmed the statement by the "South-East Army," which claims the group downed an Ukrainian Su-25 military jet and a Mi-24 helicopter.

Another Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter was struck, also in the Luhansk region, but it is unclear as to whether that aircraft crashed.

On Sunday, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down in the Luhansk region, Leonid Matyuhin, the spokesman for Ukraine's counterterrorist operation, told CNN.

A pro-Russian rebel guards a destroyed bridge in Nyzhnya Krynka, Ukraine, on Tuesday, September 23. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels in the country has left more than 3,000 people dead since mid-April, according to the United Nations. A pro-Russian rebel guards a destroyed bridge in Nyzhnya Krynka, Ukraine, on Tuesday, September 23. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels in the country has left more than 3,000 people dead since mid-April, according to the United Nations.
Crisis in Ukraine
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Photos: Crisis in Ukraine Photos: Crisis in Ukraine

The pilot managed to eject and is safe, Ukrainian state media reported.

The ongoing fighting -- sparked last year with by political crisis over whether Ukraine would seek closer ties with Europe or Russia -- has left more than 2,000 people dead and just under 5,000 wounded in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, according to estimates from U.N. officials.

The United States and the European Union have applied steadily increasing sanctions against Russian officials, banks and other interests since March, when Russia annexed the Black Sea Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Who are Ukraine's pro-Russia rebels?

Russia's move came a month after Ukraine's parliament ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych left office after violent protests against his government in the capital, Kiev.

Those protests were motivated in part by his decision to back out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Global Public Square: Make Russia an offer it can't refuse

Ukraine's secret weapon: Funding from the country's millionaires

CNN's Lindsay Isaac reported from Kiev. CNN's Jason Hanna wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Victoria Butenko and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.

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