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Putin claims Ukraine shot down POW plane, Ukraine says Russia has no evidence

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday claimed that a military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war was shot down by Ukraine. But Ukrainian officials say there’s no evidence to support Russia’s story.

The Russian Defense Ministry said a plane transporting 65 Ukrainian POWs crashed in the Belgorod region near Ukraine on Wednesday. Six crew members and three Russian servicemen were also on the flight, according to the ministry.

“Knowing (the POWs were aboard), they attacked this plane. I don’t know whether they did it on purpose or by mistake, through thoughtlessness,” Putin said of Ukraine at a meeting with students in St. Petersburg. He did not provide further details to support the allegation. 

It wasn’t until Friday that Russia provided the Ukrainian agency that deals with prisoner exchanges a list of the POWs Moscow said died in the crash.  

RUSSIAN TRANSPORT PLANE CRASHES NEAR UKRAINE WITH MORE THAN 60 UKRANIAN PRISONERS OF WAR ABOARD

Russian investigator surveys plane wreckage

In this photo taken from video released by Russian Investigative Committee on Friday, January 26, 2024, Russian Investigative Committee employee walks in a place with wreckage of the Russian military Il-76 plane crashed area near the Yablonovo, Belgorod region of Russia, Thursday, January 25, 2024.  (Russian Investigative Committee via AP)

Ukraine’s Coordination Staff for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said that relatives of the named POWs were unable to identify their loved ones in crash site photos provided by Russian authorities. The agency’s update cited Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Lt. Col. Kyrylo Budanov, as saying that Kyiv had no verifiable information about who had been on the plane.

Russia claims that missiles fired across the border from Ukraine brought the transport plane down. Local authorities in Belgorod said that all 74 people on board died in the crash. 

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Video screenshot shows the downed Russian military transport plane being loaded with passengers before takeoff on its ill-fated flight

In the photo from video released by Russian Investigative Committee on Friday, January 26, 2024, buses with Ukrainian POWs parked to load Ukrainian servicemen on board a Russian military Il-76 plane, later crashed near Yablonovo, Belgorod region of Russia, on January 25, 2024. Russia’s vulnerability to cross-border attacks was highlighted again Wednesday when the Defense Ministry said a military transport plane had been shot down in the Belgorod region while carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war. Ukraine did not contest that the plane went down but argued that Moscow had failed to say in advance that it was carrying POWs. (Russian Investigative Committee via AP)

“We currently don’t have evidence that there could have been that many people onboard the aircraft. Russian propaganda’s claim that the IL-76 aircraft was transporting 65 Ukrainian POWs (heading) for a prisoner swap continues to raise a lot of questions,” Budanov said.

Video of the crash was posted on social media and verified by the Associated Press and other news agencies. It showed a plane falling from the sky in a snowy, rural area and an explosion where it appeared to hit the ground.

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A view of the wreckage of a Russian military transport plane that crashed in Belgorod

In this photo taken from video released by Russian Investigative Committee on Thursday, January 25, 2024, wreckage of the Il-76 is seen near Yablonovo, Belgorod region of Russia, Thursday, January 25, 2024. (Russian Investigative Committee via AP)

Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied that its forces shot down a Russian military transport plane that day. Russia’s claim that the crash killed Ukranian POWs could not be verified, according to the AP.

Ukrainian officials did confirm earlier this week that a prisoner exchange had been scheduled to happen Wednesday, but said it had been called off. The officials added that Moscow had not requested for any airspace to be kept safe for a certain length of time, as it had for previous prisoner swaps.

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Russian authorities have said they are investigating the crash.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for an international investigation into the crash, though Russia remains in sole control of the crash site.

Fox News Digital’s Landon Mion and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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