A prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine was scheduled for January 24, a representative of the Chief Intelligence Directorate, Andriy Yusov, told Radio Liberty.
“I can state that the exchange planned for today is not currently taking place,” he said.
However, it is still unknown whether any Ukrainian prisoners of war were aboard the Russian IL-76 aircraft that crashed in Russia’s Belgorod Region. According to Yusov, the information is still being verified.
Mykhailo Podoliak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, told Reuters: “Comments will come a little later. Time is needed to clarify all the data.”
On 24 January, a Russian IL-76 military cargo plane crashed in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast. The Kremlin accused Ukraine of deliberately shooting down the plane, which they claim was carrying 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers for a prisoner exchange, in what it called a “barbaric act of terrorism” that killed 74 people total.
The Russian Defense Ministry said there were six Russian crew members and three Russian soldiers on the IL-76 military transport plane.
So far, Russia’s claims cannot be verified, however they raise doubts. First, it is difficult to imagine how 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war were guarded by only three Russian military men. Second, as one Ukrainian OSINT analyst told RBC-Ukraine, the crashed IL-76 aircraft with registration number RA-78830 previously flew through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea and Iran, disappeared from radars near Syria, and then reappeared over Belgorod.
So, according to the analyst’s version, “everything indicates that the IL-76 was transporting weapons from the East and so far there are no signs that POWs could have been there.”
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