Russia accuses Kiev of shooting down a military transport plane, killing all 74 people on board, including prisoners of war.

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On Wednesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the Ukrainian forces of… Shooting down a military transport planeKilling all 74 people on board, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war being exchanged.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately confirm or deny Russia’s claims about the incident in Russia’s Belgorod border region, although they said they were investigating the matter.

The Associated Press was unable to confirm the identity of who was on board the plane or other details about the cause of the plane crash. Throughout the 700-day war, Russia and Ukraine have traded conflicting accusations, and proving the facts has often been difficult, both because of the restrictions imposed by the war zone and because each side strictly controls information.

A video clip posted on social media showed a plane falling from the sky in a snowy rural area, and a huge ball of fire erupting as it apparently hit the ground.

In addition to the 65 prisoners of war, the Il-76 transport plane was carrying a crew of six and three other passengers, the Russian military said. According to the statement, Russian radars recorded the launch of two missiles from the Ukrainian Kharkiv region, adjacent to the Belgorod region. The ministry did not provide any evidence for its claim.

Firefighters, ambulances and police rushed to the site in the Korochansky district of Belgorod, TASS news agency reported, citing a local emergency services official.

The Russian military said POWs were being flown to the area for a prisoner exchange when the plane went down at 11:15 a.m. local time (0815 GMT, 3:15 a.m. EDT).

Ukrainian Military Intelligence spokesman Andrey Yusov confirmed to the media that the prisoner exchange would take place on Wednesday, but it would not take place. He added that the agency was checking whether there were Ukrainian prisoners of war on board the plane.

The statement said that the plane was heading to the Belgorod region from Chkalovsky Air Airport in the Moscow region, and the exchange of prisoners of war was scheduled to take place at the Kolotilovka crossing on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The crossing is located about 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of the village of Yablonovo, near where the plane crashed.

Russian officials and lawmakers expressed outrage and questioned whether more prisoner exchanges should take place. the Latest, b The operation, organized by the United Arab Emirates, took place this month and was the largest to date, with 230 Ukrainian prisoners of war returned to their homeland and 248 Russians released. This was the first in nearly five months and the forty-ninth since the war began.

Ukraine Kharkiv The region and Russia’s Belgorod region have long been a focus of fighting, especially missile and drone air strikes.

Russia largely ensured its air dominance during the war against Ukraine’s fleet of Soviet-era warplanes. But Russia suffered A series of malfunctions Some observers attributed this to the increase in the number of flights amid the fighting in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kyiv bragged about it Two Russian command and control aircraft were shot down, which would be a huge achievement for Ukraine if this is true. Cross-border attacks on the Russian Belgorod region also increased, and the attack was the deadliest 25 people were killed in December.

Shortly before the plane crash, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel that a “missile alert” had been sounded in the area and urged residents to take cover.

Ukraine’s Coordination Body for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said it was investigating the incident but did not immediately provide any information. Instead, it warned against sharing “unverified information.”

She said in a statement on the Telegram application: “We confirm that the enemy is actively carrying out special information operations against Ukraine with the aim of destabilizing Ukrainian society.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said that a special military commission went to the crash site.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said in a call with reporters that he could not comment on the incident because he did not have sufficient information about it.

The Il-76 is designed to transport up to 225 soldiers, cargo, military equipment and weapons, according to the Russian Military Export Agency.

The war’s 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) front line has remained largely static amid a second winter of fighting. While both sides seek to replenish their weapons stocks, the war has recently focused on long-range strikes.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said pioneering Russian missile attack On Tuesday, 18 people were killed and 130 others injured.

The bombing, which used more than 40 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and guided missiles, hit 130 residential buildings in three Ukrainian cities, “all of them ordinary houses,” Zelensky said on X, previously Twitter.

The Russian attack, which included targets in Kiev and Kharkiv, the second largest city, was the most violent in weeks and gave weight to Zelensky’s calls for Western allies to provide more military aid.

“The main priority this year is to strengthen air defense to protect our cities and towns, as well as defend front-line positions,” Zelensky wrote on Tuesday.

Analysts say Russia has stockpiled missiles to continue aerial bombing into the winter, while Ukraine has sought to strike inside Russia with new types of drones.

A US think tank said Russia may have used camouflage missiles in Tuesday’s attack in an attempt to open loopholes in Ukrainian air defences.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Moscow is likely trying to acquire more ballistic missiles from foreign countries, including Iran and North Korea, because they may be more effective in some circumstances.

Another barrage of Russian S-300 missiles hit residential areas in Kharkiv late Tuesday, wounding nine people and damaging residential buildings, regional governor Oleh Sinyhopov said.

Russia denies that its forces bombed civilian areas, although this exists Substantial evidence to the contrary.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that its air defenses shot down four Ukrainian drones in the Oryol region in western Russia. Oryol Mayor Yuri Parakhin said several drones were shot down over the city without causing any casualties.

Another Ukrainian drone was shot down early Wednesday over the Belgorod border region, according to Gladkov. He added that there were no injuries or damage.

Ukraine’s allies have pledged more military aid, though Resources are extended. Aid from the United States, Ukraine’s largest single provider, has also contributed Hit political obstacles.

The German Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it plans to send six Sea King Mk41 helicopters to Ukraine.

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This story has been updated to correct that Zelensky reported the death toll from the missile attack late Tuesday, not Wednesday.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine on https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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