The plane, carrying 65 captured Ukrainian military personnel, was en route to the area for a prisoner exchange, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.
A Russian Ilyushin-76 military transport aircraft has crashed near Ukraine in the southern region of Belgorod.
Later, Ukrainian military intelligence issued a statement alleging that Russia endangered the lives of war captives. It reported not receiving instructions to guarantee safe airspace over Belgorod.
The Ukrainian statement is interpreted as an implicit admission that the aircraft was shot down.
According to the news agency Ria Novosti, nine more passengers, including six personnel members, were on board.
A social media video captured an aircraft crashing, followed by an explosion and conflagration near Yablonovo village, located approximately 70 kilometers (44 miles) northeast of Belgorod, at approximately 11:00 local time (08:00 GMT).
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the regional governor of the Belgorod region in Russia, stated that the aircraft crashed in a field adjacent to a residential area, resulting in the fatalities of all passengers.
Uncertainties Surrounding Aircraft Incident
According to the Ukrainska Pravda website, a representative of Ukraine’s general staff initially stated that the aircraft was carrying missiles intended for the S-300 air defense systems of Russia. No mention was given to captives of war.
Although the integrity of the information about the individuals present on board is uncertain, Ukrainian military intelligence seemed to concede the possibility that captive Ukrainian soldiers were aboard.
It stated that, by the agreements that had been reached, Russia was obligated to ensure the safety of our defenders. However, unlike on numerous previous occasions, it had yet to be notified that the airspace needed to be protected at the specified time on this particular occasion.
It added that this may indicate Russia’s intentional actions to endanger the lives and safety of the PoWs.
Ukrainian officials stated before the exchange that the captured Russian military personnel had been “delivered to the agreed-upon location in time for the exchange, and they were safe there.”
The Russian Ministry of Defence said the exchange was scheduled at a border checkpoint 100 kilometers west of Belgorod on Wednesday afternoon.
The defence ministry reported that a military transport plane left Chkalovsky Air Base northeast of Moscow towards Belgorod. The government also said that the Ukrainian air force launched two anti-aircraft missiles from Lyptsi, south of the border.
Warning Amidst Prisoner Exchange
The Ukrainian government agency responsible for captives of war issued a warning. It stated that Russia was “actively destabilising Ukrainian society through special information operations against Ukraine.”
The human rights commissioner of the Ukrainian parliament, Dmytro Lubinets, urged the populace to rely solely on official sources: “Do not fall for provocations. Further elaboration will be furnished at a later time.
The chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, asserted that a second aircraft carrying eighty Ukrainian detainees had been in flight, but that aircraft had since altered course.
“Any further [prisoner] exchanges are off the table,” Mr. Kartapolov stated on Russian television.
Russia and Ukraine have engaged in several exchanges of prisoners since the onset of the conflict.
The largest exchange to date occurred this month when Russia and Ukraine traded 230 people for 248 Russian POWs. The United Arab Emirates mediated the transaction.
Russia continues to detain over 8,000 Ukrainians, including tens of thousands of missing persons. This information comes from Ukraine’s Coordination HQ on the Treatment of PoWs. This figure includes both civilian and military personnel.
A transient nationwide air raid alert was issued throughout Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the Il-76 accident news.
Escalation of Russian Air Attacks
Belgorod is situated around 25 kilometers (40 miles) north of the Ukrainian frontier. It has been subjected to dozens of drone and airstrike casualties since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine.
Following an airstrike in December, which resulted in the deaths of 25 individuals and the injuries of 100 others. Ukraine asserted that only military infrastructure had been targeted and attributed fragments falling on the city to Russian air defenses.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the fight has raged for nearly three years.
Last week, Russia claimed to have taken a settlement in eastern Donetsk, Ukraine, near Bakhmut. Kyiv has not confirmed the claim.
Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Russian air attacks have intensified. Tuesday saw 18 deaths and 130 injuries from missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.
Minister of Defence of Ukraine Rustem Umerov has issued the following warning: over the past two months, Russia has employed over a thousand uncrewed aerial vehicles and over 600 missiles, while Ukrainian forces have been suffering from an ammunition shortage.
Regarding its part, Ukraine employs drones predominantly in combat. Over the weekend, a drone strike exploded a major gas export station outside St. Petersburg.