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Il-76 crash: Ukrainian intelligence suggests presence of missiles and people onboard

Il-76 crash: Ukrainian intelligence suggests presence of missiles and people onboard Photo: representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine Andrii Yusov (Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Ukrainian intelligence does not rule out the possibility that the Il-76 military transport plane that crashed near Belgorod could have been carrying missiles and people. It is possible that the Ukrainian prisoners could have been used as human shields to transport ammunition, said Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine.

He notes that earlier exchanges also used air transport to transport Ukrainian prisoners, in particular, during the last major exchange. According to Yusov, at that time, Russia informed about the use of the aircraft and requested a ceasefire.

This time, according to the intelligence officer, Russia made neither written nor verbal requests regarding the aircraft. He emphasizes that the Il-76 could have had missiles for the S-300 air defense system and people on board.

"There could have been missiles for the S-300 system on board, or missiles and people at the same time. We are talking about a large military aircraft. It was only one-third loaded, according to them. Did it make sense to use this particular plane? There were also other planes flying in parallel with it at the same time - AN-26 and AN-72 in the space next to the Il-76 that crashed. Many circumstances require investigation and maximum study," Yusov says.

He notes that the state holding the prisoners must ensure their safety, including during transportation. The DIU representative adds that Ukraine has fulfilled the conditions.

"We can assume any scenario, including a deliberate provocation, as well as the use of Ukrainian prisoners of war as a human shield for the transportation of ammunition and weapons for missile systems that destroy Ukrainian cities," Yusov emphasizes.

Russian VIPs were supposed to be on board

The representative of the DIU also says that Ukrainian intelligence found out after the crash of the Il-76 that Russian officials were supposed to be on board. At the last moment, the Russian Federal Security Service forbade them to board.

"There were indeed several VIPs from the military and political representation of the aggressor state on board. Their names are known and will be revealed, and the materials will be provided as part of the international investigation. But at the last moment, the FSS ordered them not to board the plane and to use other means of transportation. This information was already found out after the incident happened," Yusov says.

He adds that Russian emergency workers were not allowed to work at the crash site. According to him, only five bodies were taken to the local morgue in Belgorod.


He does not rule out that Russia could have shot down the plane itself. One of the versions is that Russian air defense forces could have perceived a Ukrainian reconnaissance UAV as a target, but made a mistake and shot down their plane. The intelligence officer adds that the Il-76 is a military aircraft, so it should not have had any prisoners.

At the same time, he does not comment on the lists of Ukrainian prisoners who were allegedly on board and published by the Russians. Yusov emphasizes that these were not reports of officials or bodies that should be responsible for the treatment of prisoners of war.

Russian Il-76 aircraft crash

Yesterday, January 24, a Russian military transport aircraft IL-76 crashed in the Korocha district of the Belgorod region. RBC-Ukraine's sources reported that the vessel had been carrying missiles for the S-300 air defense system.

At the same time, Russia claimed that the plane had been allegedly carrying 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers, six crew members, and three escorts. The Russians accuse Ukraine of shooting down the plane.

The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine confirmed that the exchange had been indeed supposed to take place yesterday. However, the intelligence agency did not confirm the claim that the plane had been carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later said that the Russians had been playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners. He called for an international investigation.

Today it became known that the Security Service of Ukraine had opened a case over the downing of the Il-76 in the Belgorod region. The investigation is being carried out under Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war).