(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine said it shot down a Russian strategic bomber in combat for the first time since Russia invaded, after the plane launched a missile strike that killed at least seven people. 

The Tu-22M3, a Soviet-era design, was downed some 300 kilometers (186 miles) inside Russia, Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence agency said on its website. Ukrainian authorities didn’t specify which weapon brought down the plane. Russian news agencies said at least one of the pilots was killed and quoted the Defense Ministry as blaming a technical fault.

Losing the plane signals a new vulnerability for President Vladimir Putin’s military, which relies on Cold War-era bombers as the main tool in its missile campaign against Ukraine. The supersonic Tu-22 can launch strikes from deep within Russia, leaving it effectively untouchable for Ukraine’s air defenses.

In Washington, US aid for Ukraine moved forward in Congress after months of delay that have led allies to fear Ukraine’s ability to hold the line against Russia’s invasion is waning.

In the latest Russian strikes, missiles hit two food export terminals at the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi, destroying foodstuffs destined for Asian and African countries, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday. One of the terminals is owned by Delta Wilmar, a unit of Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd., according to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry.

“Dear partners in the Global South, this is Russia’s true attitude toward you, your food security, and well-being,” Zelenskiy said on X. He called it “part of a deliberate Russian strategy to cause maximum damage to Ukraine and the countries that rely on Ukrainian agricultural goods.”

The Tu-22 downing was the first successful hit against the bomber type since the start of Russia’s invasion, according to GUR, which maintained Ukraine’s secrecy about its ability to down targets inside Russia. 

The jet was destroyed using the same type of weapon previously used to down an A-50 radio surveillance airplane, GUR said without elaborating. Ukraine reported downing an A-50 near the Sea of Azov in January and another in February over Russia.

Deadly Barrage

The overnight missile strike on Dnipro damaged several apartment buildings in the city and more than 60 residential homes in the region, as well as infrastructure, regional Governor Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram.

The city, whose prewar population was almost 1 million people, is Ukraine’s main hub closest to the battlefield. Air defense forces said they downed 15 of the 22 missiles launched as well as all 14 explosive-laden drones. 

Almost 1,200 Russian rockets have struck Ukraine this year, Zelenskiy told a Ukraine-NATO council meeting on Friday, pleading for more air-defense systems. NATO allies have identified additional equipment, including Patriot and SAMP/T systems, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, saying he expects “announcements in the near future.”

Read more: G-7 Warns China Against Aiding Russia in Its War Against Ukraine

Read more: Russian Strategic Bomber Crashed After Combat Mission: Interfax 

On Wednesday, an attack on the northern city of Chernihiv on Wednesday killed 18 people and wounded 78 others.

Billions of dollars in long-stalled US military aid to Ukraine is finally on track to pass Congress, with votes expected on Saturday in the Republican-led House of Representatives. 

“There is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024 or at least put Putin in a position where he could essentially dictate the terms of a political settlement,” US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said at a military forum this week. 

--With assistance from Kateryna Chursina and Natalia Drozdiak.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.