Russia military plane crashes carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war, says Moscow

A Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane has creashed in Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, state media has said.

State news agency RIA quoted the defence ministry as claiming it was carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war to be exchanged in a swap. RIA cited the defence ministry as saying that the plane was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, alongside six crew members and three other people, when it crashed.

There was no immediate information on the cause, or if there were survivors.

Video posted on the Telegram messenger app by Baza, a channel linked to Russian security services, showed a large aircraft falling towards the ground and exploding in a vast fireball.

Other video footage shared on social media showed a plane going down near the village of Yablonovo, about 30 miles from the Ukraine border, followed by an explosion, at around 11am local time (8am GMT).

The authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, and a special military commission was on the way to the crash site, the Defense Ministry said.

The Il-76 is a military transport aircraft designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons. It has a normal crew of five people, 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. He said investigators and emergency workers were already on the scene.

The Kremlin said that it was looking into the situation.

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

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a major Russian missile attack that apparently was devised to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses had killed 18 people and injured 130. Ukraine is marking the 700th day since the full-scale invasion by Kremlin’s forces started.

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,” Mr Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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