An Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane reportedly crashed in Belgorod region, targeted by Ukrainian air strikes recently.
A Russian official has accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane in an incident that it says killed 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) and nine others.
The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday that Ukraine had shot down the plane, an Ilyushin Il-76, which came down in the Belgorod region.
Close to the border with Ukraine, Belgorod has been targeted in recent weeks by Ukrainian air strikes. The ministry claimed, without offering evidence, that radars had detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles.
An official at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also claimed that Ukraine had downed the aircraft, calling it a “barbaric” act.
“On board were 65 captured Ukrainian army servicemen being transported to the Belgorod region for exchange, six crew members and three escorts,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the Defence Ministry as saying. It did not provide any evidence for the claim.
Andrei Kartapolov, a Russian MP close to the Defence Ministry, claimed the plane was targeted by three missiles, which were either US or German-made.
“It was done deliberately to sabotage the prisoner exchange,” he asserted.
The Kremlin told reporters that it was investigating the reports.
Kyiv declined to comment while it collects information.
Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said it was looking into the crash without providing more information and cautioning against sharing “unverified information”.
“We emphasise that the enemy is actively conducting information special operations against Ukraine aimed at destabilising Ukrainian society,” it said in a statement on the Telegram app.
A video posted on Telegram by Baza, a channel linked to Russian security services, showed a large aircraft falling and exploding in a vast fireball.
Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on social media that he had altered his schedule due to an “incident” and that investigators and emergency workers had already arrived at a site in the Korochansky district.
“The plane fell in a field near a populated area. Everyone on board died,” Gladkov said on his Telegram channel. Alongside the POWs, six crew members and three guards were also reported killed.
The Il-76 is designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment and weapons. It usually has a crew of five and can carry up to 90 passengers.
In December, Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out a “terrorist attack” on civilians in the city of Belgorod, which killed 25 people.
Last week, the Kremlin accused Kyiv of an attack on the occupied city of Donetsk, which killed 27 people. Ukraine has denied the claim.