Moscow, Jan 24 (EFE).- A Russian military transport plane crashed in the southern Belgorod region bordering Ukraine on Wednesday, killing all 75 on board, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, the regional governor said.
Governor Viacheslav Gladkov said the Ilyushin-76 aircraft crashed in the Korochansky district as it went down in an open field near a populated area. “All on board died.”
The Russian defense ministry said that six crew members and three escort soldiers were on the plane with 65 captured Ukrainian military personnel as the aircraft headed to Belgorod region for a prisoner exchange.
The ministry alleged that the Ukrainian army shot down the plane using anti-aircraft missile systems from an area near the town of Liptsi in the Kharkiv region.
The statement called it “a terrorist act” on a Russian military aircraft that was on its way from Chkalovski, on the outskirts of Moscow, to Belgorod.
The statement said Russian radars detected the launch of two missiles by Ukraine, although it did not specify whether both missiles hit the target.
The ministry said Ukrainian leaders were well aware of the planned transport of Ukrainian prisoners of war to Belgorod.
The statement noted that the exchange was scheduled to occur in the second half of the day at the Kolotilovka checkpoint on the Russian-Ukrainian border as per a previously agreed-upon agreement.
The Il-76 fixed-wing plane crashed around 11 a.m. near Yablonovo village, about 50 km from the Ukrainian border.
Videos circulating on social media networks show a dramatic moment of a plane descending and erupting into flames upon impact, claiming that it was the IL-76 going down in Belgorod.
The Belgorod region, considered one of the hubs of the Russian military approximately 40 km from the border with Ukraine, has been the target of several deadly air strikes and drone attacks since the war in Ukraine began two years ago.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, accused Ukraine of shooting down the plane.
Volodin said the pilots, engaged in a humanitarian mission, were killed defenselessly and called for clarification on the type of missiles used in the incident.
“They shot their own soldiers in the air. Their own,” Volodin told lawmakers in a plenary session.
Andrei Kartapolov, a Russian lawmaker and member of the parliamentary defense ministry committee, alleged without offering evidence that the plane was targeted by three US or German missiles.
“It was done deliberately to sabotage the prisoner exchange,” Kartapolov said.
The lawmaker instructed MPs to prepare an appeal to the US Congress and Germany’s Bundestag in connection with the plane to show foreign parliamentarians for what purposes Kyiv is using their military assistance. EFE