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Zelenskyy calls for international probe into Russian military IL-76 crash

Russia accuses Ukraine of shooting down its military transport plane IL-76. It says there were 65 Ukrainian POWs on board.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 11 January 2023. Credit: Presidential Office
Zelenskyy calls for international probe into Russian military IL-76 crash

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated Ukraine wants an international investigation into the downing of a Russian Il-76 military transport plane on 24 January. 

“All facts must be established, to the extent possible given the crash was in Russia beyond our control,” Zelenskyy said, adding that he has tasked the foreign minister with informing partners about Ukraine’s available data. “Our state will insist on an international investigation.”

Zelenskyy added top Ukrainian officials including the Defense Minister, military commanders, intelligence heads, and Security Service chief briefed him on the situation surrounding the Russian plane incident.

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. Moscow has summoned an urgent session of the UN Security Council in connection with the crash. 

The UN Security Council session to discuss the Russian Il-76 crash will take place on Friday, January 26. Russia had asked current Security Council President France to convene an urgent meeting on 24 January, but France declined.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reacted to the crash of the Russian IL-76 in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast. Their statement can be seen as a hint, but not a direct confirmation that the Ukrainian military shot down the Russian plane.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue to take measures to destroy means of delivery and airspace control in order to eliminate the terrorist threat, including in the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction,” the statement published on Facebook says.

Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate has confirmed that a prisoner exchange scheduled for 24 January did not occur but they “currently lack reliable information on who exactly was aboard”. 

Ukraine’s intelligence also stressed that Ukraine fulfilled all preparations for the prisoner swap, delivering Russian prisoners to the agreed location where they stayed unharmed. Yet Russia, responsible for Ukrainian POWs’ safety, gave no heads-up about securing airspace near Belgorod when transferring them, despite past coordination.

“Landing a transport plane in an active 30km battle zone endangers any prisoner exchange unless coordinated by both sides. Russia’s failure to discuss risks could signal premeditated attempts to destabilize Ukraine and erode our international backing,” Ukraine’s intelligence state on Facebook.

Mykhailo Podoliak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, told Reuters: “Comments will come a little later. Time is needed to clarify all the data.”

Journalists from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemy (Schemes) project have identified the six-man Russian military crew killed when their Il-76 transport plane crashed in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast. Using official documents and social media, the investigative reporters verified at least four casualties.

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