• The IL-76 military aircraft was transporting 65 captured service members for further exchange, the Defense Ministry has said

MOSCOW (Agencies): A Russian heavy transport plane carrying several dozen Ukrainian prisoners of war has crashed in Belgorod Region, which borders Ukraine, Moscow has confirmed. Local Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov has said all those on board were killed.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that an IL-76 cargo aircraft carrying 65 captured Ukrainian service members as well as six crew members and three people accompanying the POWs went down during a pre-planned flight at around 11am local time. It added that the prisoners were being transported to Belgorod region for an exchange.

Defense officials also noted that Moscow has dispatched a commission to establish the cause of the incident.

Telegram channel 112, citing a source, had earlier reported that the crash took place near the village of Yablonovo, about 90 km from the border. The channel at the time said that there were no survivors.

Meanwhile, Ukraine-based Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing sources in Kiev’s military, that the aircraft had been destroyed by Ukrainian forces. However, the outlet reported that the plane had been carrying S-300 air defense missiles rather than prisoners.

A few minutes later, it removed the mention of Kiev’s role in the downing of the aircraft, stating only that its military sources had confirmed the crash.

Russian MP Andrey Kartapolov said that there were two planes carrying Ukrainian POWs, and that Moscow had to urgently divert the second IL-76, carrying 80 captured troops, out of the danger zone.

The legislator stated that Kiev knew about the impending exchange and had been informed of the flight route, adding that despite the warning, the plane was shot down by three anti-aircraft missiles fired from either US-made Patriot or German-made IRIS-T systems. Kartapolov asserted that in light of this tragedy, any prisoner exchange is “out of the question for now,” suggesting that Kiev had carried out the attack in order to thwart the exchange.

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