Russian Military Transport Plane Crashes Carrying Ukrainian Prisoners of War
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Moscow – A Russian Ilyushin-76 military transport plane crashed in the southern Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, while carrying 65 captured Ukrainian military for a planned prisoner exchange, as reported by Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

The incident occurred near the village of Yablonovo, 70km (44 miles) northeast of Belgorod, resulting in an explosion and a fireball, as seen in videos shared on social media. The fate of those on board, including six crew members, remains unverified due to conflicting reports.

Ukraine’s general staff initially suggested that the plane was transporting missiles for Russia’s S-300 air defense systems, making no mention of prisoners of war. However, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Andriy Yusov, stated that a planned prisoner exchange had been canceled.

Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov confirmed that everyone on board had perished, with the crash occurring in a field near a residential area. Initial Ukrainian media reports hinting at a possible downing by Ukrainian forces were later deleted, as the situation is under investigation.

The Russian Defence Ministry accused Ukraine’s air force of firing two anti-aircraft missiles from the Lyptsi area south of the Ukrainian border, leading to the crash. A scheduled prisoner exchange at a border checkpoint was disrupted, according to the ministry.

Russian parliamentary defence committee chairman Andrei Kartapolov claimed a second plane had been transporting 80 Ukrainian prisoners, but it changed course. He declared the end of any further prisoner exchanges.

Ukraine and Russia have engaged in multiple prisoner swaps, with the most recent involving the release of 248 Russian prisoners of war and 230 individuals by Russia earlier this month.

The crash triggered a brief nationwide air raid alert in Ukraine. Belgorod, located near the border, has experienced casualties from air strikes in the ongoing conflict. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the war is continuing into its third year.

Russian air attacks have intensified, causing civilian casualties. Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov highlighted a shortage of ammunition for Ukrainian forces, contrasting Russia’s significant use of missiles and drones. Ukraine has responded mainly through drone warfare, with recent drone attacks causing disruptions, including an explosion at a gas export terminal near St Petersburg.

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