Russia has grounded its Tupolev long-range bombers after one caught fire and ran off the runway during training, according to the Defense Ministry. The plane, able to carry nuclear missiles, had no ammunition on board.
At least five Russian servicemen were injured on Monday during a failed takeoff of a Tu-95 bomber in the Amur region, some 9,000 kilometers (about 5,600 miles) east of Moscow.
"According to information from the scene, several crew members received injuries of varying degree while leaving the plane and were hospitalized," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Doctors specialized in burn treatment have been dispatched to help the military staff, according to the Interfax news agency.
Preliminary reports indicate that the accident was caused by an engine fire on the propeller-powered plane.
The Russian bomber plane Tu-95, known amongNATO forces
as "the Bear" is a strategic bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons and cruise missiles. Different versions of the aircraft have been an essential part of Kremlin air power for decades, with early models conducting long-range patrols in the 1950s.
The Russian air force has decided to suspend Tu-95 flights pending investigation of Monday's incident, officials said.
The news of the engine fire comes only days after twoRussian military planes
malfunctioned during separate training missions.
Last Thursday, two pilots were forced to eject from a MiG 29 and were hospitalized, prompting Russian authorities to ground the fighter planes pending investigation. Later on the same day, a Su-34 bomber skidded off the runway and rolled over after the brake parachute malfunctioned. The crew was not injured.
dj/cmk (dpa, AP, Interfax)