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Russian Military Plane Crashes Near Ukraine Border

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Russia says 65 Ukrainian servicemen were on the plane, being flown to Belgorod ahead of a prisoner swap. Video screenshot/Twitter/@neha_bisht12

A Russian military plane with 74 people on board crashed in the Belgorod region of Russia, near the border with Ukraine, on Wednesday. The region’s governor said all those on board were killed.

The cause of the crash is unclear, and there are conflicting accounts about who or what was on board. Russian state media reported that 65 Ukrainian servicemen were on the plane, being flown to Belgorod ahead of a prisoner swap.

Russia blamed Ukraine for shooting down the plane. A statement by the Russian Defense Ministry says the plane was flying from Chkalovsky near Moscow to Belgorod to transport Ukrainian military personnel for exchange.

“The plane was destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the area of Lyptsi, Kharkiv region, using an anti-aircraft missile system. The radar equipment of the Russian Aerospace Forces observed the launch of two Ukrainian missiles,” the statement says.

Blaming Ukraine for “neglecting the lives of its citizens,” the defense ministry says the exchange was agreed for the afternoon at the Kolotilovka checkpoint on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

The Ukrainian leadership knew that Ukrainian military personnel would be transported by military transport aircraft, the Russians added.

Ukraine says the plane was carrying missiles

Ukraine says the IL-76 that crashed in Belgorod was carrying missiles for the S-300 air defense system, according to the official Ukrainian information service, quoting a source in the Ukrainian armed forces.

A prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine was being prepared for today, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence told Radio Liberty.

Andriy Yusov is quoted as saying: “I can state that the exchange planned for today is not taking place yet.”

He adds that the information provided by Russia, that prisoners of war had been on board the plane which crashed in Belgorod, was being checked.

The plane that crashed is a Soviet-era, long-range freighter plane that has been in service since 1975, according to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation. It typically operates with a seven-person flight crew, and can carry around a 50-ton payload, according to the body. They’re not designed as a passenger aircraft.

The region of Belgorod has been increasingly drawn into Russia’s war on Ukraine, with an increasingly emboldened Kyiv launching cross-border strikes on its cities and towns in an effort to dent domestic support for Moscow’s invasion.

Earlier this month, Russia was forced to evacuate residents from the region after a series of retaliatory strikes from Ukraine.

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