ALIONA MAZURENKO — TUESDAY, 24 MAY 2022, 16:19
A [Russian] fighter has been shot down in the skies over Ukraine, and Kanamat Botashev, a retired Major General of the Russian Air Force, was killed.
Source: Russian edition of BBC with reference to Botashov's three former subordinates
Details: Subordinates who had kept in touch with Botashev after leaving the service agreed to comment on condition of anonymity for reasons of personal safety.
It is noted that Botashev is the highest-ranking pilot whose death is known about. Prior to his retirement, he was commander of an aviation regiment.
It is suggested that his participation in air battles may indicate how difficult the tasks are that Moscow is giving its military pilots, or be a sign that there is a lack of high-quality specialists in Russia.
On 22 May, the General Staff of Ukraine announced that a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft had been shot down in the sky over Luhansk Oblast. The pilot did not have time to eject.
One of Botashev's former colleagues confirmed that a retired general was carrying out missions in a Su-25 aircraft in Ukraine.
In one of the Russian Telegram channels, this participant reported on Botashev's death: "Kanamat has been killed. Popasna district, 8:25…the first strike was by unguided air missiles, the second by a bomb… A Stinger [was] on the way out of the attack when there was an explosion in the air and… that was it."
The administrator deleted the comment, but other participants continued the discussion.
It is noted that at least 31 Russian military pilots are known to have died in Ukraine: "These are significant losses for the [Russian] Air Force, although the real numbers may be higher."
Botashev was a sniper-class pilot. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the training of such a pilot takes 10-12 years and costs about $8 million.
It is unclear how the 63-year-old retired general found himself at the controls of the Su-25 in Ukraine. Botashev's former subordinates suggested that he "simply could not stay away."
The media sent a request to the Russian Defence Ministry to comment on the possible death of Botashev.
The General Staff of Ukraine has reported that, since 24 February, 205 Russian military planes and 170 helicopters have been shot down [in Ukraine]. The Russian Defence Ministry has not commented on these numbers and has not updated its losses since the end of March.
Botashev commanded a regiment of the Guards Air Base in Voronezh. His military career came to an end in June 2012, when he was accused of crashing a Su-27 fighter near Petrozavodsk. The general asked his friend-colonel to let him fly a Su-27, a flight permit he did not have.
Botashev decided to perform aerobatics during the flight, but lost control of the plane. The fighter crashed, the pilots ejected.
Then it turned out there was already a similar official violation on Botashev’s record - in 2011 he flew a Su-34 without permission.
Botashev was found responsible for the plane crash and sentenced to 4 years probation and a fine of 5 million rubles [about 84,550 US dollars].