Tragedy Strikes as Russian Plane Carrying Ukrainian Prisoners Crashes
On the 24th (local time), the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that an Ilyushin IL-76 military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners crashed in Belgorod, a border area with Ukraine, resulting in the death of all on board.
The Ministry of Defense claimed that at around 11:15 a.m., the IL-76 transport plane carrying 65 Ukrainian soldiers for prisoner exchange, 6 Russian crew members, and three escort officers, a total of 74 people, was shot down due to a “terror attack” by the Ukrainian regime.
Adding to this, they stated that two missiles fired by Ukraine were detected by the radar of Russian Aerospace Forces.
The Ministry of Defense stated that these prisoners were scheduled to be exchanged with Russian prisoners at the Kololetilopka border checkpoint in the afternoon and that “the Ukrainian leadership was well aware that their national prisoners were being transported for the exchange.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized, saying, “The Ukrainian regime has committed another act of terror,” and “the attack on the plane was deliberate and conscious.”
Andrey Kartapolov, head of the State Duma Defence Committee, said three Patriot or IRIS-T anti-aircraft missiles shot down the transport plane from the Ukrainian military.
He said that Russia and Ukraine were scheduled to exchange 192 prisoners each that day, but it was interrupted by the accident, and claimed that “Ukraine shot it down to hinder the prisoner exchange and blame Russia.”
Viktor Bondarev, a former Chief of Staff of the Russian Aerospace Forces and a senator, also said based on social media footage, “It is 100% clear that the plane was shot down,” and that the crew of the transport plane barely reported ‘there was an external shock.’
In Russian political circles, there are claims that, in light of this incident, the process of designating Ukraine as a terrorist state should begin.
Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian National Security Council and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, continued his offensive, saying, “The Ukrainian leadership has effortlessly killed its soldiers and prisoners to protect power and money.”
The Ukrainian military, which had been silent since the crash, stated about eight hours later, “It is true that a prisoner exchange was scheduled for today,” but “we have no reliable information about what was on board the crashed Russian military IL-76 transport plane,” they claimed.
Earlier, local reports in Ukraine suggested that the Russian transport plane carrying S-300 missiles for bombing Kharkiv had been shot down by the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian military pointed out, “We did not receive a request to ensure air safety around the Belgorod region, unlike the last prisoner exchange,” and, “It could be a planned action by Russia to destabilize the situation in Ukraine.”
While they did not explicitly deny firing missiles at the Belgorod airspace that day, it is interpreted as leaving open the possibility that they may have mistakenly fired at the transport plane with their military prisoners on board, caught up in the Russian plot.
In another statement that did not mention the IL-76 transport plane crash, the Ukrainian military also expressed its intention to continue measures targeting Russian military facilities in the Belgorod region.
Dmytro Lubinets, chairman of the human rights committee of the Ukrainian parliament, posted on Facebook, saying that analysis of the information to understand the circumstances of the incident is being made, and asked that “All media and Ukrainian citizens should not rush to conclusions and only trust official sources” and that “Do not spread inaccurate information.”
He added, “The enemy is cunning,” and “We know very well what terrible means Russia can use to destabilize Ukrainian society.”
Videos of a plane falling and a massive fire erupting in a place presumed to be Belgorod are spreading on social media platforms like Telegram.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Belgorod, announced that the IL-76 transport plane crashed in a field near a densely populated village in the Korochansky district of Belgorod.
Georgy, a church pastor in the village of Yablonovo, about 3.1-3.7 miles from the crash site, told TASS, “The plane fell into a field, and there was no damage to the village.”
Local media reported that the crash transport pilot is hailed as a “hero” for avoiding residential areas and preventing large-scale casualties.
There were also reports that another IL-76 transport plane, which was following with about 80 Ukrainian prisoners on board, narrowly avoided the accident by changing direction.