Videos of the crash posted on social media showed a plane falling from the sky in a snowy, rural area, and a massive ball of fire erupting where it supposedly hit the ground…reports Asian Lite News
The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon at the request of Moscow, which has accused Kyiv of shooting down a Russian military transport plane near the border with Ukraine on Wednesday.
The Russian military said its radar registered the launch of two missiles from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region which borders the Belgorod region. The ministry did not provide evidence for its claim and Ukraine has said it was looking into it but did not immediately provide any information. Instead, it cautioned against sharing “unverified information.”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia wanted to discuss the circumstances of a plane crash and said the full facts were still being verified:
“Ukrainian prisoners of war were transported to the Belgorod region in order to carry out the next exchange agreed between Moscow and Kyiv. Instead of this exchange taking place, the Ukrainian side attacked this plane with anti-aircraft missiles from the Kharkiv region, which became fatal.”
Since Russia’s invasion almost two years ago, Moscow and Kyiv have traded conflicting accusations, and establishing the facts has often been difficult, both because of the constraints of a war zone and because each side tightly controls information.
Lavrov also stated that Russia was not concerned if foreign media didn’t believe the details surrounding the crash and added that Russia had nothing to discuss with the United States.
He also called speculation that Russia intended to attack Europe “nonsense.”
Videos of the crash posted on social media showed a plane falling from the sky in a snowy, rural area, and a massive ball of fire erupting where it supposedly hit the ground.
Firefighters, ambulances and police rushed to the site in the Korochansky district of Belgorod, state news agency Tass reported, citing a local emergency services official.
The Russian military said the POWs were being flown to the region for a prisoner swap when the plane was downed at 11:15 am local time (8:15 am GMT).
The Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman, Andrii Yusov, confirmed that a prisoner swap was to happen Wednesday but was not going ahead. He said the agency is checking whether Ukrainian POWs were on the plane.
The plane was headed to the Belgorod region from the Chkalovsky airfield in the Moscow region, and the POW swap was scheduled to take place at the Kolotilovka crossing on the Russian-Ukrainian border, the statement read. The crossing is about 135 kilometres west of the village of Yablonovo, near where the plane fell.
Russian officials and lawmakers expressed outrage and questioned whether there should be further prisoner swaps. The most recent one, brokered by the United Arab Emirates, took place this month and was the biggest to date, with 230 Ukrainian POWs returning home and 248 Russians released. It was the first in almost five months and 49th since the war began.
Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and Russia’s Belgorod region have long been the focus of the fighting, especially involving airstrikes with missiles and drones.
Russia has largely ensured its air dominance during the war against Ukraine’s fleet of Soviet-era warplanes. But Russia has suffered a series of crashes that some observers have attributed to a higher number of flights amid the fighting in Ukraine.
At the same time, Kyiv has boasted of shooting down two Russian command and control planes, which would be a major feat for Ukraine if true. Cross-border attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region also have increased, with the deadliest one killing 25 people in December.
Shortly before the crash, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel that a “missile alert” had been triggered in the region and urged residents to take shelter.
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 emphasise that the enemy is actively conducting information special operations against Ukraine aimed at destabilising Ukrainian society,” it said in a statement on Telegram.
The Russian Defence Ministry said a special military commission was headed to the crash site.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on his call with reporters that he could not comment on the crash because he did not have enough information about it.
The Il-76 is designed to carry up to 225 troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons, according to Russia’s military export agency.
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