Ukraine calls for international probe into downing of Russian Il-76

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected Moscow's claim that Kiev’s air defenses shot down the Russian plane carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs scheduled to be exchanged.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Il-76 military transport was transporting 65 Ukrainian captives when it was shot down by a Ukrainian missile over Belgorod Region. Six Russian crew members and three officials were also on board. There were no survivors.

”We must determine all the hard facts – as much as possible, given that the plane crashed on Russian territory,” Zelensky said in a video published on his website.

He added that the Ukrainian authorities are investigating the incident and working to “determine the fate of all POWs”.

“Our country will be insisting on an international investigation,” the president stated, accusing Moscow of “playing with the lives of Ukrainian POWs”. He did not name a culprit in the destruction of the IL-76, however.

Several Ukrainian media outlets and journalists initially cited sources as saying that the aircraft was “transporting missiles” and was shot down by Ukrainian troops. They quickly deleted their original reports after Russia revealed that the plane was carrying Ukrainian captives.

The Russian MOD insisted that Kiev was “well aware” that the captives would have been transported on a military plane to an airfield near the Russian city of Belgorod, from where they would have been taken to an exchange point. Ukrainian military intelligence agency GUR claimed that they had not been informed in advance about the route, or the means, of the prisoners’ transportation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday Ukraine’s attack on the Russian Il-76 plane that led to its crash in the Belgorod Region was “deliberate”, and called the incident a “terrorist act”.

The Ukrainian General Staff has released a statement saying that Russia has been using transport planes to resupply Belgorod with missiles used to strike Kharkov, and that the planes were therefore a legitimate military target. It did not mention any prisoners, though.

Russia requested to convene an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the incident. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that “Ukrainian propaganda” has been frantically “trying to concoct other explanations” since the information about the passengers of the doomed flight was revealed.

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