Espreso. Global

IL-76 crash: 5 bodies taken to morgue, Russian VIPs supposed to be on board — Ukraine's Intelligence

25 January, 2024 Thursday

The Il-76, which crashed in Belgorod region the day before, was supposed to have high-ranking Russian officials on board, but at the last minute the FSB forbade them to board

A representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Andriy Yusov told this to Radio Liberty

According to him, Ukrainian intelligence discovered this after the plane crash.

"Several VIPs from the military and political representation of the aggressor state were indeed supposed to be 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 FSB actually ordered them not to board the plane and to use other means of transportation. This information was already clarified after the incident had happened," Yusov says.

In addition, Russian rescuers were not allowed to inspect the crash site. Yusov also emphasized that the video from the crash site did not show any human remains. And only five bodies were brought to the local morgue in Belgorod the day before.

Russia could have used Ukrainian prisoners of war as human shields to transport weapons

"The plane could have been carrying missiles for the S-300 system, as well as 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 parallel to it at the same time - AN-26 and AN-72 in the space next to the IL that crashed. There are many circumstances that require investigation and maximum study," the intelligence community believes.

Yusov emphasized that according to international law, it is the state that holds prisoners of war which is responsible for their safety, including transportation to the exchange.

Intelligence suggests that it could have been Russia that shot down the plane. According to him, for example, Russian air defense forces could have perceived a Ukrainian reconnaissance UAV as a target, but the missiles fired or the MANPADS crew made a mistake and shot down their own plane - this is one of the versions.

What is known about the downing of the IL-76 in Russia

On Wednesday, January 24, a Russian military transport plane IL-76 crashed in the Korocha district of Belgorod region.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the plane was allegedly carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war who were being transported to the Belgorod region for exchange.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council because of the downing of the plane, which Moscow accused Ukraine of shooting down. France rejected the request. 

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces emphasized that the Defense Forces control the airspace and monitor missile launch sites and logistics, especially with the use of military transport aircraft, and will continue to take measures to destroy delivery vehicles.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed that a prisoner exchange was to take place on January 24. The Intelligence noted that it does not currently have reliable and comprehensive information about who was on board the plane and in what quantity. 

White House National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said that the United States could not confirm the presence of Ukrainian prisoners in the Russian IL-76. 

On January 25, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would insist on an international investigation into the downing of the IL-76 military transport plane in Russia.

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