Update (0759 ET):
The Russian Ministry of Defence claims Russian radar systems detected two Ukrainian missiles in the area before the Russian transport plane full of Ukrainian prisoners crashed.
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A Russian military plane transporting dozens of Ukrainian prisoners, as well as nine crew and guards, crashed in the Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defence released a statement about the incident:
“An Il-76 plane crashed in the Belgorod region at around 11 a.m. on January 24 while on a scheduled flight. It was transporting 65 captive servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to the Belgorod region for an exchange, in addition to six crewmembers and three accompanying persons.”
Bloomberg cited Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Defence Committee of the State Duma of Russia, who told the lower house of parliament that Ukraine downed the transport plane using either the US Patriot system or German-made IRIS-T.
‼️ Il-76 military plane crashes in Belgorod region
There were 63 people on board, Russian media reported. All of them died
The estimated value of the plane is 27 million dollars.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that there were Ukrainian prisoners on board the plane. The… pic.twitter.com/3doCOmZuX7
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) January 24, 2024
The ministry also said the Russian Aerospace Forces is responding and has been sent to the incident area to investigate the cause of the crash.
Russain news agency Interfax said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the crash, telling journalists that the information was still “too fresh.”
This comes as Ukraine and Russia exchanged nearly 500 prisoners earlier this month, the largest swap since the early days of the war.
There have also been reports Western allies have secretly met with Ukraine on a peace plan with Russia as the US presidential election cycle gears up.