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This is the moment a Russian military transport plane allegedly carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs nosedived towards a town before crashing and exploding on impact in the region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine.

Dramatic video shows an out-of-control Ilyushin Il-76 plunging from the sky and smashing into the ground in front of horrified locals in the village of Yablonovo, which is just 26 miles from the Ukrainian border.

As the large 164ft plane slams into the ground, it explodes into a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames.

Within minutes of the crash, Russia claimed the military plane was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six crew and three people accompanying them, without providing any evidence. Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Belgorod region, said all 74 people onboard had been killed in the crash. 

Sources within the Ukrainian military had told local media that the downing of the Russian military aircraft was ‘their work’ and that it was carrying S-300 air defence missiles. But that claim was later retracted.

And Andrei Kartapolov, a member of Russia’s State Duma and a retired general, claimed the plane was shot down by three types of missiles that the West has supplied to Ukraine, without providing evidence. 

He said investigations would reveal whether the missiles were the US-made Patriots or German IRIS-Ts. 

Moment Russian military plane ‘carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs’ crashes in huge fireball in border region: Kremlin says aircraft was shot down by ‘missiles used by the West’

A Russian military transport plane carrying 63 people today nosedived and crashed in the region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine

Video shows the Ilyushin Il-76 plunging from the sky and smashing into the ground in front of horrified locals in the Korochansky district this morning

Video shows the Ilyushin Il-76 plunging from the sky and smashing into the ground in front of horrified locals in the Korochansky district this morning

As the large 164ft plane slams into the ground, it explodes into a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

As the large 164ft plane slams into the ground, it explodes into a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

As the 164ft plane crashes, the impact sparks a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

As the 164ft plane crashes, the impact sparks a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

Pictured: Debris from the crashed Russian military plane in the village of Yablonovo

Pictured: Debris from the crashed Russian military plane in the village of Yablonovo 

‘It was absolutely deliberate. They knew very well that the plane was en route, where it was going and the operators of (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile systems cannot mistake transport planes for military planes or helicopters as targets,’ Kartapolov said. 

‘It was done deliberately to sabotage the prisoner exchange,’ Kartapolov said, without providing evidence to back up his claims.  

Vyacheslav Volodin, the top lawmaker in Russia’s lower house of parliament, parroted the same line and claimed the plane had been ‘shot down’ by Kyiv and blamed Western missiles.

‘They shot their own soldiers in the air. Their own,’ Volodin told lawmakers in a plenary session. 

‘Their mothers, wives and children were waiting for them. They took a decision and shot down our defenceless pilots on a military transport plane, who were carrying out a humanitarian mission, with American and German rockets,’ he added. 

If the details are confirmed, it would be the deadliest incident of the almost two-year-old war inside Russia’s internationally recognised borders. 

But Russia’s claims were immediately questioned, with analysts pointing to striking inconsistencies in the allegations coming from Moscow. 

Footage at the site of the crash in Belgorod region does not so far show multiple bodies – or parts – at the scene. The bloody remains of one body may be visible on a blurred image. 

The Russians say the human remains are up to over a mile from the site, but they have not been shown. 

Instead, the Emergencies Ministry staff – who would normally deal with air crashes – have been banished from the site and replaced with Defence Ministry soldiers with police support, according to reports. They were especially keen to get hold of documents seen scattered in the snow.

Prominent Ukrainian journalist Illia Ponomarenko said he found it hard to believe that only three Russians would be accompanying 65 Ukrainian POWs. 

He also said it’s not likely that Ukraine’s military would ‘have no idea’ that this particular aircraft was carrying their own troops, especially if it was part of such a major prisoner swap. 

Indeed, veterans of other exchanges like Ukrainian POW Max Kolesnikov said that three guards looking after 65 prisoners is not plausible and suggests it is a ‘lie’.

In his case, there were at least 20 guards on the plane carrying 50 prisoners.

Pictured: Debris from the crashed Russian military plane in the village of Yablonovo

Pictured: Debris from the crashed Russian military plane in the village of Yablonovo

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Dramatic video shows an out-of-control Ilyushin Il-76 plunging from the sky (left) and smashing into the ground (right) in front of horrified locals in the village of Yablonovo, which is just 26 miles from the Ukrainian border

As the large 164ft plane slams into the ground, it explodes into a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

As the large 164ft plane slams into the ground, it explodes into a huge fireball that engulfs the 72-tonne jet in flames

A Russian military transport plane carrying 63 people today nosedived and crashed in the region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine today

A Russian military transport plane carrying 63 people today nosedived and crashed in the region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine today

Further, a list of names of those supposedly on the plane was given by  Putin’s leading woman propagandist Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT state media empire. Pictures of some of the 65 she named were published. 

Yet at least one of those on the list was handed back to Ukraine on 3 January, say reports in Ukraine. Other accounts say up to 18 were swapped earlier this month and are no longer in Russia. 

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said: ‘Comments will come a little later. Time is needed to clarify all the data.’

And Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said it was looking into the crash but did not immediately provide any information. Instead, it cautioned against sharing ‘unverified information.’

‘We emphasize that the enemy is actively conducting information special operations against Ukraine aimed at destabilising Ukrainian society,’ it said in a statement on Telegram.

The Il-76 is a military transport aircraft designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons. It usually has a crew of five, and can carry up to 90 passengers. 

Local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that an unspecified ‘incident’ had occurred in the region’s Korochansky district, northeast of Belgorod city, and that he was going to inspect the site. 

‘Currently, an investigation team and employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations are working on the spot,’ he said.

‘I have changed my work schedule and gone to the area. All details later.’

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred around 11am near the village of Yablonovo, but Russian authorities said a special military commission was on the way to the site. 

Russia’s defence ministry said a prisoner exchange had been due to take place at the Kolotilovka checkpoint on the border between Russia and Ukraine. 

It said the plane that was shot down had been flying from the Chkalovsky airbase near Moscow to Belgorod, in which case it would have been in the final stage of its flight.

Lawmaker Kartapolov said it had not been escorted by Russian fighter planes because the flight had been agreed with the Ukrainians. He said a second Il-76 transport plane carrying around 80 more Ukrainian soldiers to the exchange had managed to turn around.

Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov told the Radio Svoboda outlet that a prisoner exchange had been planned for Wednesday, adding: ‘It’s not taking place at the moment.’

Russia and Ukraine have carried out several big prisoner swaps in the course of the war.

Ukrainian PoW Oleksandr Babayev, 30

Ukrainian PoW Mikhail Antonov, 38

Further, a list of names of those supposedly on the plane was given by Putin’s leading woman propagandist Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT state media empire. Pictures of some of the 65 she named were published. Yet at least one of those on the list was handed back to Ukraine on 3 January, say reports in Ukraine

Ukrainian PoW Oleksiy Gladyr, 28

Ukrainian PoW Ivan Roy, 21

Further, a list of names of those supposedly on the plane was given by Putin’s leading woman propagandist Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT state media empire. Pictures of some of the 65 she named were published. Yet at least one of those on the list was handed back to Ukraine on 3 January, say reports in Ukraine

Plumes of black smoke rise from the site of the crash on Wednesday

Plumes of black smoke rise from the site of the crash on Wednesday

Plumes of black smoke rise from the site of the crash on Wednesday

Plumes of black smoke rise from the site of the crash on Wednesday 

File image of Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircrafts in Moscow, Russia

File image of Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircrafts in Moscow, Russia 

Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, has come under frequent attack from Ukraine in recent months, including a December missile strike which killed 25 people. 

Ukraine later appeared to admit it had targeted the Il-76, while not commenting on the military plane having Kyiv PoWs on board, as Russia has alleged.  

‘The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced against the background of the downing of the Russian Il-76 military transport plane that the Defence Forces are closely monitoring the logistics of the supply of missiles in order to reduce the missile threat to Kharkiv region,’ said an official statement.

‘The recorded intensity of shelling is directly related to the increase in the number of military transport planes that have recently been heading to the Belgorod airfield.

‘Taking this into account, the Armed Forces will continue to take measures to destroy means of delivery, control the airspace to destroy the terrorist threat, including in the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction.’

Earlier today there had been a missile threat in Belgorod region and claims Russian air defences shot down an aircraft-style drone flown from Ukraine. 

Separately, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a major Russian missile attack that apparently was devised to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences had killed 18 people and injured 130.

The barrage employing more than 40 ballistic, cruise, anti-aircraft and guided missiles early Tuesday hit 130 residential buildings in three Ukrainian cities, ‘all ordinary houses,’ Zelensky said on X.

Russia’s onslaught, which included targets in the capital Kyiv and second-largest city Kharkiv, was the heaviest in weeks and lent weight to Zelensky’s appeals for Western allies to provide more military aid.

‘This year, the main priority is to strengthen air defence to protect our cities and towns, as well as defend frontline positions,’ Zelensky said late Tuesday.

With the 930-mile front line largely static amid icy weather and as both sides seek to replenish their weapons stockpiles, the war recently has focused on long-range strikes. 

Ukrainian soldiers remove a camouflage net from their tank before going to the frontline in the direction of Bakhmut in Ukraine on 23 January

Ukrainian soldiers remove a camouflage net from their tank before going to the frontline in the direction of Bakhmut in Ukraine on 23 January

Ukrainian soldiers of the 41st brigade walk in a trench near the frontline, outside Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, on January 23

Ukrainian soldiers of the 41st brigade walk in a trench near the frontline, outside Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, on January 23

Analysts say Russia stockpiled missiles to pursue a winter campaign of aerial bombardment, while Ukraine has sought to strike inside Russia with new types of drones.

Russia may have employed decoy missiles in Tuesday’s attack in an effort to open up holes in Ukraine’s air defences, a U.S. think tank said.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Moscow is likely trying to acquire more ballistic missiles from foreign countries, including Iran and North Korea, because they may be more effective in some circumstances.

A further barrage of Russian S-300 missiles struck residential districts of Kharkiv late Tuesday, injuring nine people and damaging residential buildings, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.

Russia denies its forces strike civilian areas, although there is substantial evidence to the contrary.

The Russian Defence Ministry said that air defences shot down four Ukrainian drones over the Oryol region of western Russia early Wednesday.

Oryol Mayor Yuri Parakhin said that several drones were downed over the city. He said there were no casualties, but windows were shattered in several apartment buildings in the city.

Another Ukrainian drone was downed early Wednesday over the Belgorod border region, according to regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov. He said there were no casualties or damage.

Ukraine’s allies have promised to keep sending military aid packages, even though their resources are stretched. Help from the United States, by far Ukraine’s single biggest provider, has also hit political snags.

The German defence ministry announced Wednesday that it plans to send six SEA KING Mk41 multi-role helicopters from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.

Since the beginning of the war military deliveries from Germany have amounted to around 6 billion euros ($6.52 billion), including substantial anti-aircraft and air defence systems, the government said.



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