Russian jet crashes carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war Moscow

Russian jet crashes carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war – Moscow –

  • By Laura Gozzi and Paul Kirby
  • BBC News

January 24, 2024, 09:27 GMT

Updated 1 hour ago

video caption,

The BBC has reviewed this video showing the moment a Russian plane crashed in the Belgorod region

A Russian Ilyushin-76 military transport plane crashed in the southern Belgorod region near Ukraine.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, 65 captured Ukrainian military personnel were on the plane that was flying to the region for a prisoner exchange.

Ukrainian military intelligence later released a statement accusing Russia of putting the lives of prisoners of war at risk.

It said it had not been told it needed to ensure safe airspace over Belgorod.

The Ukrainian statement is seen as a tacit admission that it shot down the plane.

According to the Ria Novosti news agency, there were another nine people on the plane, including six crew members.

Video posted on social media showed a plane crashing, followed by an explosion and a fireball, near the village of Yablonovo, 70 km (44 miles) northeast of the city of Belgorod, at around 11:00 a.m. local time (08:00 a.m. local time). . MEAN GREENWICH TIME).

The regional governor of Russia's Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said the plane crashed in a field near a residential area and everyone on board died.

Ukraine's General Staff initially said the plane was carrying missiles for Russia's S-300 air defense systems, according to the Ukrainska Pravda website. There was no mention of prisoners of war.

None of the details of those on board can be independently verified, but Ukraine's military intelligence appeared to acknowledge that Ukrainian captured soldiers may have been on board.

In a statement it said it was Russia's responsibility to “ensure the safety of our defenders within the framework of the agreements reached”, but it was not informed on this occasion that the airspace must be secured “at the appointed time”. as on numerous occasions before.

“This may indicate that Russia has taken deliberate actions aimed at endangering the lives and safety of prisoners of war,” it said.

Ahead of the planned prisoner exchange, Ukrainian officials said the captured Russian military personnel were “transported to the agreed location in time for the exchange and were safe there.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said the exchange was scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon at a border checkpoint 100 kilometers west of Belgorod.

The Defense Ministry said a military transport plane took off from Chkalovsky air base northeast of Moscow en route to Belgorod and claimed the Ukrainian Air Force fired two anti-aircraft missiles from the Lyptsi area south of the Ukrainian border.

The Ukrainian government agency responsible for prisoners of war warned that Russia was “actively conducting special information operations against Ukraine aimed at destabilizing Ukrainian society.”

Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine's parliamentary human rights commissioner, appealed to Ukrainians to trust only official sources: “Don't be fooled by provocations. More detailed information will follow later.”

Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of Russia's parliamentary defense committee, claimed there was a second plane in the air carrying 80 Ukrainian prisoners, although that plane subsequently changed course.

“There can be no talk of anything else now [prisoner] exchange,” Kartapolov told Russian television.

Ukraine and Russia have participated in several prisoner exchanges since the start of the war.

According to Ukraine's Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, more than 8,000 Ukrainians, both civilian and military, are still being held by Russia and tens of thousands more are still missing.

Shortly after news of the Il-76 crash broke, there was a brief nationwide air raid warning across Ukraine.

Belgorod, about 25 miles (40 km) north of the border with Ukraine, has suffered dozens of casualties from airstrikes and drones since the start of Ukraine's war.

Last week, Russia claimed to have captured a village near the destroyed city of Bakhmut in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. Kyiv has not confirmed the claim.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov warned that while Ukrainian armed forces are suffering from a shortage of ammunition, Russia has deployed more than 600 missiles and more than 1,000 drones in the past two months.

Ukraine, for its part, fights mainly with drones. Over the weekend, a drone strike caused an explosion at a major gas export terminal near the city of St. Petersburg.