Russia said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian military transport plane over Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, killing all 74 people onboard, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its forces registered two anti-aircraft missiles fired from Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast, which borders Belgorod, that hit the IL-76 aircraft. The ministry claimed the POWs were being transported as part of a planned prisoner swap with Ukraine.
Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for the downing of the plane, but sources told Ukrainska Pravda that Ukrainian forces were responsible. The Ukrainian military also hinted it was behind the incident.
In response to the news, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement that it would “continue to destroy means of delivery and control the airspace to eliminate the terrorist threat, including on the Belgorod-Kharkiv front.”
Ukraine’s military intelligence acknowledged in a statement that a prisoner swap was scheduled to take place on Wednesday but said it had no information about who was onboard the downed Russian plane.
“A prisoner exchange was to have taken place today, but did not. According to the Russian side, this was as a result of the shooting down of a Russian Il-76 plane which was allegedly transporting our prisoners,” the statement said. “We currently have no reliable and comprehensive information about who was on board the aircraft and in what numbers.”
It’s unclear what kind of missiles were used to shoot down the Russian plane, which was hit about 55 miles inside Russia. The head of Russia’s State Duma’s defense committee suggested Ukrainian forces could have used US-made Patriot missile systems or the German-made IRIS-T.