By Mario Trujillo - 07/23/14 08:13 AM EDT
Ukraine’s government on Wednesday said two of its fighter jets had been shot down in the eastern part of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents are battling Kiev.
The two Sukhoi Su-25 jets were shot down in eastern Ukraine and might have been carrying two crew members each, Defense spokesman Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky told The Associated Press.
White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said he had heard the news of the two fighter jets being attacked but could not yet confirm it.
“I saw the report, but I don't have confirmation. But we are looking into that right now,” he said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”
Russia has continued to provide military support to the separatists, even after the downing of the commercial airliner last week, according to U.S. officials.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the new reports highlight the need to get Russia to cease such support.
“It demonstrates some of the capability that separatists have and how important it is to get the arms flow stopped that is coming from Russia into Ukraine,” he said on MSNBC.
In the past few months, the United States and Ukraine have blamed the separatists for shooting down a number of helicopters and military planes.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power last week pointed to at least four instances in the past two months.
On June 13, separatists shot down a Ukraine transport plane carrying 40 paratroopers. Eleven days later, separatists took down a helicopter carrying nine individuals.
Earlier this month, they took credit for shooting down a military cargo plane. And just a day before the shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines flight, the separatists claimed credit for a similar downing of two Ukraine fighter jets.
— This story was updated at 8:54 a.m.