Espreso. Global

Briefly about IL-76 crash in Belgorod region. Facts and their legal assessment

26 January, 2024 Friday

Russian aggressor at the highest level has claimed that there were "Ukrainian prisoners of war" on board the IL-76 that crashed on January 24 in the Belgorod region, who allegedly "all died”


The extent to which such a statement is fake should be analyzed by experts. What I can confidently qualify as a lie is the absolutely implausible minimum number of guards of "three" for dozens of prisoners. If Russian generals launch planes over their regional centers packed to the brim with enemy soldiers and a couple of guards, who by definition will not demonstrate "shooting talents" in case of disobedience, then such generals are usually sent to basements to paint red on the walls with the back of their heads.

But let's define legally all three purely hypothetical scenarios on board the Russian Il-76: 1) there were no Ukrainian prisoners of war; 2) there were prisoners of war; 3) in addition to prisoners of war, there was cargo on board.

The first option implies that the aggressor not only staged a provocation, but is also preparing the corpses of prisoners of war for this provocation, otherwise all the foam on the mouths of Russian "diplomats" near the UN toilet is just for nothing.

That is, this situation is a gross violation of Geneva Convention III by the Russian Federation and a war crime by the Russians: reprisals, i.e. the killing of prisoners of war in another place and in another way, which the aggressor links to the downing of the IL-76 and the taking of prisoners of war as hostages, as the aggressor clearly demonstrates its intention to continue to claim "the death of Ukrainian prisoners of war" after the negative events in Russia.

The second option is also a violation by Russia of Geneva Convention III and a war crime by Russia. This convention requires that the ICRC and the protecting power, i.e. the official intermediary, be involved in the exchange of prisoners of war and monitoring of their condition, and even more so, that the deaths of prisoners be reported to the ICRC and the protecting power. This is a direct requirement of Article 121 III of the Geneva Convention.

For 23 months, the highest authorities of the Russian Federation and its "diplomatic" servants have been sabotaging the appointment of the Protecting Power and preventing the ICRC from participating in the negotiation and exchange processes; these are the structures that are supposed to control the process and give it the features of objective monitoring. A lot of time has passed since the crash of the IL-76, and no presence of the ICRC or third-country nationals has been noticed at the crash site; now anything can be "discovered" there.

In addition, the hypothetical transfer of prisoners of war by plane near the front line and through the Belgorod airport, which is closed to civil aviation, violates the provisions of Article 19 III of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits excessive and unnecessary danger to prisoners of war.

And most importantly.

Article 23 III of the Geneva Convention clearly states that "no prisoner of war shall at any time be sent to an area where he would be exposed to fire from a battle zone, nor detained there, nor shall he be used to protect by his presence any points or areas against military operations".

Thus, the hypothetical transportation of prisoners of war by a Russian military aircraft near the front line and at the frontline airport in Belgorod directly violates this norm: the fact that "Belgorod is being shelled" by the Russians themselves is "officially" stated all the time.

If prisoners of war died afterwards, this is a direct consequence and part of this violation of Article 23. In addition, Articles 23 and 24 of Geneva III prescribe the reporting and marking of prisoner locations.

The third option is qualified as the second one, but to this are added such war crimes of the representatives of the Russian Federation as taking hostages in the form of human shields on the plane and, accordingly, as treachery.

I would also add that any, even the saddest hypothetical scenario described above does not provide for international responsibility of Ukraine and the Ukrainian military.

That is why Russia is running around the UN, exclusively aiming at Ukrainians and the populations of partner countries in the political dimension.

The challenge is that the success of such a terrorist plan by Russia will mean that Ukrainian prisoners will continue to "suddenly die" in various places in Russia and in the occupied territory, because the hostage tactic is spread by terrorists precisely in case of its success. We all have to realize this.


About the author. Borys Babin is a Ukrainian scholar, public and political activist, Doctor of Law, Professor.

The editors do not always share the views expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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