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The Russian government is holding Kyiv responsible for the crash of a Russian military aircraft which they allege was transporting Ukrainian prisoners of war.
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The Russian government is holding Kyiv responsible for the crash of a Russian military aircraft which they allege was transporting Ukrainian prisoners of war.

On Wednesday, Russia alleged that Ukraine was responsible for the downing of a military aircraft carrying 74 individuals, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were to be exchanged for Russian prisoners held by Kyiv.

Ukrainian authorities have not yet verified or refuted the statement made by Russia, but have announced that they are currently conducting an investigation into the crash of the Il-76 transport aircraft. According to Russia, there were six crew members and three prisoner escorts on board at the time of the incident.

The main intelligence directorate of Ukraine stated that they do not have dependable or thorough data on the identities and number of people aboard the plane.

A video circulating on social media captured a plane plummeting from the sky and crashing onto its side, causing a large explosion upon impact in the snowy and rural western region of Belgorod in Russia.

A church service is held for those killed in the Russian Il-76 military transport plane crash in the Belgorod region, in the village of Yablonovo near the crash site, on Jan. 24, 2024.

A ceremony is conducted at a church for the individuals who lost their lives in the Belgorod region plane crash of a Russian Il-76 military transport on January 24, 2024. The church is located in the village of Yablonovo near the site of the crash.

Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, is in New York this week for meetings with the United Nations. He has alleged that Ukraine was responsible for a “terrorist attack.”

Lavrov informed journalists that the Ukrainian POWs were moved to the Belgorod area for a previously arranged exchange between Moscow and Kyiv. However, the Ukrainian side deviated from this plan and launched an air defense missile from the Kharkiv region, resulting in a fatal strike on the targeted plane.

The city of Kharkiv shares a border with the Russian territory of Belgorod. In the past two years of their ongoing conflict, the two sides have exchanged prisoners multiple times.

Lavrov stated that Moscow had asked for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday afternoon. However, the meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday due to a pre-existing council meeting on Wednesday.

The defense ministry of Russia released a statement without providing any evidence to support it.

According to a local emergency services official, firemen, ambulances, and law enforcement quickly responded to the location of the collision in the Korochansky district of Belgorod, as reported by the state news agency Tass.

The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reported that they were unable to confirm Russia’s assertion that Ukraine was responsible for shooting down the plane.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia announced that they had destroyed a Ukrainian drone in the Belgorod region and intercepted four more drones in the Oryol region of western Russia.

On Tuesday, Russian troops launched a significant missile strike on Ukraine, resulting in the deaths of at least 18 individuals according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The most severely affected regions were Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, a city in the northeastern part of the country.

In his evening speech on Tuesday, Zelenskyy announced that over 130 individuals were harmed and 139 residences were affected by the attack.

According to him, the Russian assault involved 40 missiles and was described as a “combined attack” aimed at evading our air defense system.

The Ukrainian air force reported that they successfully intercepted and destroyed approximately half of the missile attacks.

Contributions to this report were made by VOA’s U.N. correspondent, Margaret Besheer. Additional information was supplied by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters.