Ukraine war: Russia says Kyiv shot down military plane, killing all on board, including 65 of its own POWs

Ukraine war: Russia says Kyiv shot down military plane, killing all on board, including 65 of its own POWs

Russia’s defence ministry blamed the “Kyiv regime” for the downing of a Russian Il-76 transport plane that crashed on Wednesday, saying its radar had detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles.

Authorities in Russia’s Belgorod region said that all 74 people aboard the plane, which Moscow has said was carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war to be swapped for Russian captives, were killed.

Associated Press could not confirm who was aboard.

Unverified videos on social media showed a large plane, purportedly in the Belgorod region, falling from the sky on its side before crashing in a fireball.

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Flames rise from the scene of a warplane that crashed at a residential area near Yablonovo, Belgorod region, on Wednesday. Photo: Validated UGC video via AP

“At around 11am Moscow time, an IL-76 aircraft crashed in the Belgorod region during a routine flight,” Moscow’s defence ministry told Russian news agencies.

Russia’s defence ministry called the attack “a terrorist act.”

The Il-76 is a military transport aircraft designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons. It has a normal crew of five people, and can carry up to 90 passengers.

They shot their own soldiers in the air. Their own. Our pilots, who were carrying out a humanitarian mission, were shot down
Vyacheslav Volodin, Russian official

Vyacheslav Volodin, the top lawmaker in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said the plane had been “shot down” by Kyiv and blamed Western missiles.

“They shot their own soldiers in the air. Their own,” Volodin told lawmakers in a plenary session.

“Our pilots, who were carrying out a humanitarian mission, were shot down.”

The crash occurred in the Korochansky district, northeast of the region’s capital, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.

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“Now an investigation team and emergency services are working on the site. I have changed my working schedule and travelled to the district,” Gladkov said.

Gladkov had earlier announced a missile alert over the region, but it was not clear if the two events were connected.

In Kyiv, local media initially cited sources in the Ukrainian military as saying that its army downed the plane, and that it was transporting missiles.

But that claim was later retracted.

Officials in Kyiv also cautioned against sharing unverified information.

The issue of prisoners of war is sensitive in both countries.

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In 2022, Russia and Ukraine accused each other of carrying out deadly bombardments on a jail holding dozens of captured Ukrainian servicemen in Kremlin-controlled Olenivka, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Both Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for the incident, which President Volodymyr Zelensky called a “Russian war crime”.

Moscow and Kyiv have also recently accused each other of a sharp escalation in attacks on civilian areas over the past two months.

Russian strikes wounded nine people in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, the region’s governor said Wednesday.

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The Il-76 military transport aircraft is designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons. It can carry 90 passengers, and a crew of 5. Photo: AFP

Regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said Moscow’s forces had fired S-300 surface-to-air missiles at the city, which lies next to Ukraine’s border with Russia.

Russian forces had aimed to wrest control of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, early in their invasion, launched in February 2022.

But Ukrainian forces pushed back Moscow’s army, which has been routinely shelling the city since.

Separately, the governor of the southern Kherson region said Russian forces had killed a total of five residents of his region over the course of the day before.

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Six more people were wounded across the region, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, the governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, said on social media.

Both Russian and Ukraine have stepped up strikes on each others’ cities and critical infrastructure.

Kyiv has urged its allies to help bolster its air defence systems to ward off Russian attacks.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press

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