Russia said a military plane carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners as well as nine crew and guards crashed in Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, according to Bloomberg.
The IL-76 aircraft came down while transporting the prisoners for an exchange with Ukraine, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said Wednesday, according to the state-run Tass news service. A senior Russian lawmaker claimed the aircraft was downed by a Ukrainian missile attack.
Andrey Kartopolov, head of the defense committee, told the lower house of parliament that Ukraine shot down the plane using three missiles, either the US Patriot or German-made IRIS-T. A second IL-76 plane with another 80 Ukrainian prisoners on board turned around and escaped attack, he said.
Neither the Russian Defense Ministry nor officials in Ukraine have commented on Kartopolov’s allegations so far. An investigation team is being sent to the crash site, Tass reported, citing the Russian ministry.
Everyone on board the aircraft was killed in the crash, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said on Facebook that it’s “gathering and analyzing all necessary information.” Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian ombudsman, urged against “premature assumptions” in a statement on Telegram.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment immediately, the Interfax news service reported.
Ukraine and Russia exchanged almost 500 prisoners earlier this month, the largest swap since the February 2022 invasion began. Ukraine handed over 248 Russian prisoners for 230 Ukrainian servicemen and civilians, according to announcements by both sides that also highlighted mediation by the United Arab Emirates in the negotiating process.