Plane crash in western Russia – what we know and what we don’t know
(Reuters) – Russia accused Ukraine on Wednesday of shooting down a military transport plane carrying 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers as part of a prisoner exchange.
Ukraine has not yet commented on what happened. Here’s a summary of what we know so far.
Where did the accident happen?
The accident occurred northeast of Belgorod in western Russia, near the border with Ukraine. The Belgorod region has been the target of repeated cross-border attacks by Ukraine, but this, if details are confirmed, would be the deadliest incident of its kind in the nearly two-year-old war located within Russia’s internationally recognized territory.
Who was on board?
The plane was an Ilyushin Il-76, a large military transport aircraft designed to transport troops, cargo or weapons. The Russian Defense Ministry said that in addition to 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, there were six Russian crew members and three Russian soldiers on board. The plane crashed in a huge fireball, and the ministry and the local governor said all those on board were killed.
What caused the accident?
The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the “Kiev regime” of shooting down the plane, saying that Russian radar detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles from the Ukrainian Kharkiv region. Earlier, Russian MP and former general Andrei Kartapolov spoke about three missiles and said they were either American Patriot missiles or German-made IRIS-T missiles. He added that investigators will determine exactly what type of missiles were used when they extract fragments from the crash site.
What prisoner exchange is planned?
The Russian Defense Ministry said that an exchange was scheduled to take place at the Kolotilovka checkpoint on the border between Russia and Ukraine. She added that the downed plane was flying from the Chkalovsky Air Base near Moscow to Belgorod, in which case it would have reached the final stage of its journey.
MP Kartapolov said that Russian fighter planes did not accompany her because the trip was agreed with the Ukrainians. He added that a second Il-76 transport plane carrying about 80 other Ukrainian soldiers to the exchange area was able to return.
Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov told Radio Svoboda that a prisoner exchange was planned for Wednesday, adding: “It is not happening at the moment.”
Russia and Ukraine carried out several large prisoner exchanges during the war.
Russian state television journalist Margarita Simonyan published what she said was a list of the names of 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were on board the plane. Reuters could not confirm this independently.
What does Ukraine say?
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian president, told Reuters: “Comments will come shortly. Time is needed to clarify all the data.”
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborne and Alexandra Hudson)