April 21, 2023 –A Russian Sukhoi-34 fighter-jet has accidentally bombed the Russian city of Belgorod, around 40km (25 miles) from the border with Ukraine.
The bomb left a 20m (60ft) crater and caused an explosion so large it blew a car on to the roof of a nearby shop.
Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said authorities had ordered the evacuation of a damaged nine-storey block of flats as a precaution.
Three people were injured and several buildings were damaged, he said.
Video posted on social media showed the impact of the blast, lifting a vehicle on to the roof of a supermarket as traffic streamed along Prospekt Vatutina, close to the centre of the city.
In a brief statement, the Russian defence ministry admitted that one of its Su-34 fighter bombers had “accidentally discharged aircraft ordnance” at 22:15 local time (19:15 GMT) on Thursday.
It was a bureaucratic way of saying that the jet had mistakenly fired a weapon. It didn’t specify which one.
The bomb landed at an intersection of two roads not far from the city centre and next to residential buildings.
Two women were taken to hospital for treatment, according to the governor. But with a Russian bomber hitting a busy residential district the consequences could have been far worse.
“Thank God no one was killed,” he said on social media.
CCTV footage of the incident suggests that local residents did, indeed, have a lucky escape.
The video shows a series of cars passing a crossroads, before an object lands on the ground nearby.
There is no immediate explosion. The ordnance detonates approximately 18 seconds later, blowing up a section of the road, catching one of the cars as it passes and sending a parked car flying into the air before it lands on the supermarket roof.
Though embarrassing for the Russian military, the admission of “an accident” suggests that officials here do not believe the incident will negatively impact Russian public opinion of what the Kremlin still calls its “special military operation”.
In times of war and conflict, accidents happen, sometimes with devastating consequences. Last October a Sukhoi fighter jet – again, an Su-34 – crashed in the Russian city of Yeysk killing at least 13 people.
The military says it has launched an investigation into the incident. Quoting a former military pilot, pro-government news site Moskovsky Komsomolets suggested “the conclusions [of the investigation] are unlikely to be made public, but lessons will be learned”.
By morning maintenance workers had begun the work of repairing the busy intersection in Belgorod. The mayor said much of the work would take place at the weekend and the road would be resurfaced on Monday.
The regional governor said Belgorod’s residents had endured a difficult night but would get through it.
Russian jets regularly fly over Belgorod, a city of 370,000, on their way to Ukraine.
It lies just north of Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and has come under periodic Ukrainian attack since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.