Ukraine, Russia trade barbs over fatal PoW plane crash

Russia and Ukraine traded accusations on Thursday over the crash of a military transport plane that Moscow said was carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war and was shot down by Kyiv’s forces, another heated episode in the information war that has been a feature of the conflict.
Though investigators reportedly found the flight recorders a day after Wednesday’s crash, there was little hope that the circumstances would be clarified. Conflicting narratives from both sides are a daily feature of a war now nearing the end of its second year. But the stakes are especially high in relation to Wednesday’s incident, the deadliest of its kind to take place on Russia’s own internationally recognised territory.
The Il-76 crashed in a huge ball of fire in a rural area of Russia, and authorities there said all 74 people on board, including 65 PoWs, six crew and three Russian servicemen, were killed. The crash triggered a spate of claims and counterclaims – but neither side offered evidence for their accusations.
Russia alleged that Kyiv shot down the plane with two missiles and said the prisoners of war were headed for an exchange. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described it as “a totally monstrous act”. Ukraine responded by accusing Russia of spewing propaganda, cast doubt on the fact that POWs were aboard – and put forward their own theories, including implying that the plane may have posed a threat.
A senior Russian lawmaker said Ukrainian military intelligence had been given a 15-minute warning. “The Ukrainian side was officially warned, and 15 minutes before the plane entered the zone they were given complete information, which they received and confirmed receipt of,” Andrei Kartapolov told fellow lawmakers.
Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov reiterated that Kyiv had received neither a written nor verbal request from Russia to refrain from attacks in the airspace where the plane was downed. Yusov added that two other Russian military transport planes, An-26 and An-72, had also been in the airspace at the time. “Unfortunately, we can assume various scenarios, including provocation, as well as the use of Ukrainian prisoners as a human shield for transporting ammunition and weapons for S-300 systems,” he said. Ukrainian officials didn’t dispute that the plane went down and they confirmed a prisoner exchange was due to happen Wednesday – but said it was called off. President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine would push for an international probe.
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