A Russian warplane dropped a bomb on a Russian city of more than 400,000 people on Thursday night, leaving a crater 40 meters (130 feet) in diameter, blowing a vehicle onto a roof, and causing damage to buildings in what state media termed an "emergency release of air ordnance."
According to state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS, a Russian Su-34, a twin-engine fighter-bomber, dropped the bomb 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) north of the Ukrainian frontier, over the city of Belgorod.
"At approximately 22:15 Moscow time on April 20, while a Su-34 aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces was performing a flight over the city of Belgorod, an emergency release of air ordnance occurred," the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted as saying by TASS.
"It occurred at the intersection of one of the central streets, leaving a 20-meter-wide impact crater," the governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said in a Telegram message.
According to RIA Novosti, an overturned vehicle landed on the roof of a shop.
Mayor of Belgorod Valentin Demidov wrote on his Telegram channel that the explosion damaged multiple apartment structures.
Gladkov reported that two persons were reported injured in the explosion.
Last December, Russian state media bragged about the nation's Su-34 warplanes, claiming that a "new batch of... frontline bombers" had been dispatched to Russian forces for use against Ukraine. It did not specify the quantity of aircraft delivered.
"The Su-34 bomber will be the primary weapon system of Russian frontline aircraft. TASS reported at the time that the upgraded Su-34's combat capabilities allowed it to utilize advanced air-launched munitions, increase the range of striking ground and naval targets, and increase the conditions and precision of bombing runs.
The aircraft can carry various munitions, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as guided and unguided explosives.
Thursday evening, Russia's state-run media did not specify what type of weapon descended on Belgorod.
According to some estimates, approximately 10% or more of Moscow's Su-34 fleet has been destroyed since the start of the conflict. Oryx, an open-source intelligence website based in the Netherlands, claims to have visual evidence for 19 aircraft lost in combat and non-combat situations.
Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and former Royal Australian Air Force officer, stated that a pilot might release explosives if their aircraft loses power, or in the case of a Su-34, if one of its two engines loses power.
However, he described Thursday's incident in Belgorod as "odd" for several reasons.
Initially, the weapon detonated. Ordnance is typically released in a "safe" mode in an emergency so that it does not detonate unless "the bomb's explosive filling is extremely sensitive to shock."
Second, a pilot would typically drop a weapon in uninhabited areas.
Layton stated, "The fact that the bomb landed in the heart of the city, and not in the countryside, almost suggests accuracy."
Thirdly, a warplane would be expected to jettison all munitions, not just one, in the event of a malfunction. "Maybe they were, but only one exploded," Layton said.
Multiple explosions and explosives have occurred in the Belgorod region since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Gladkov alleged in a Telegram message that Kyiv's forces attacked a village in the region near the Ukrainian border earlier this week.
Citing an anonymous source, local media reported that two drones dropped small bombs on local thermal power facilities.
Ukraine refused to affirm its participation in the incident.
"We will neither confirm nor deny [Ukraine's involvement]," Andrii Yusov, a Ukraine's Defense Intelligence representative, said Monday on Ukrainian national television.
"I believe the Russians should get used to the fact that there are no safe havens on their territory while they wage an unjust war of aggression."
"The war has already reached the homes of every Russo-fascist and Russian regime subject," he added.