Two people have been injured in Belgorod, Russia, following an explosion caused by a munition that fell from a Russian Su-34 aircraft.
A video of the event shows the ammunition falling onto the pavement before exploding 20 seconds later. This suggests that the weapon may have been equipped with a delayed fuse, which is commonly used in bunker-busting munitions.
The powerful explosion left a crater of about 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter in the pavement, lifting a car in the process and damaging nearby buildings. A woman was hospitalized with head trauma and another person was treated on the spot, according to the governor of the Belgorod Region Vyacheslav Gladkov. Inhabitants of a nearby nine-story building were evacuated and resettled.
The accidental discharge of a Su-34 aircraft was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
“At around 22:15 Moscow time on April 20, when a Su-34 plane of the Russian Aerospace Forces was performing a flight above the city of Belgorod, an emergency release of an air ordnance occurred,” the ministry said in a statement to Russian news agency TASS.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the incident. The voluntary emergency release of a live munition over a populated area is a rather unusual occurrence, hinting that either the aircraft was in a precarious situation or that the munition fell unintentionally despite the claims of the ministry.
Developed in the 1980s, the Sukhoi Su-34 ‘Fullback’ is a fighter-bomber capable of conducting strike missions on air, sea, and ground targets. It is operated by a crew of two people sitting side-by-side.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, Russian aircraft have been regularly conducting bombing sorties over Belgorod, notably when targeting the nearby city of Kharkiv. Belgorod is situated approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
Another potential case of accidental discharge was reported on September 14, 2022. An unidentified flying object resembling the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile crashed in the Russian city of Stavropol, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) from the Ukrainian border. An explosion occurred and injured six people, including four local residents and one fireman.