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Russia ignores Ukraine's appeal to return bodies of POWs Moscow says are killed in Il-76 crash

by Rachel Amran and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 1, 2024 11:54 PM 3 min read
Military intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusov. (Eugen Kotenko / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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After Russia said Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in the recent Il-76 plane crash, Ukraine appealed to return the allegedly killed POWs home, Andrii Yusov, a representative of the military intelligence, said on Feb. 1.

But the Russian government has not responded to Ukraine's request, he added.

"Ukraine applied and continues to apply for the transfer of the bodies," Yusov said.

"So far, the Russian side does not agree to this. Therefore, the demand of our state to conduct an impartial international investigation remains relevant...Russia still has not confirmed the process regarding the international open investigation."

Russia has alleged that the Russian military aircraft that crashed in Russia's Belgorod Oblast on Jan. 24 was destroyed by Ukrainian forces and that it was carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs.

Ukraine called Russia's narrative into question and demanded an international investigation, which Moscow refused.

Military intelligence: Senior Russian officials were supposed to be on Il-76 flight but did not board
High-ranking Russian officials were supposed to be on board the Il-76 aircraft that crashed in Belogorod Oblast on Jan. 24, but the Federal Security Service (FSB) did not allow them to board at “the last moment,” Andrii Yusov, Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesperson, told RFE/RL on Jan. 25.

Earlier this week, Yusov reminded that, as of now, there is no evidence of the presence of the POWs on the crashed plane apart from Russia's claims.

"At the moment, there is no readiness to transfer the bodies from their (Russia's) side. Nevertheless, such efforts continue from our side," Yusov told Suspilne.

"If the worst possibility turns out to be true, we will do everything possible to return our defenders."

Yusov noted that the plane might have been carrying both prisoners and ammunition, with the POWs serving as human shields. On the day of the crash, several Ukrainian media outlets reported, citing military sources, that the aircraft was transporting S-300 missiles.

"Considering that the plane was loaded only to one-third, based on their (Russian) version, other supplies may have been present, as this is the main purpose of the aircraft," the spokesperson said.

Ukraine's Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War confirmed that a prisoner swap was planned for Jan. 24 that was meant to involve 65 Ukrainian POWs. Ukrainian officials nevertheless said that Russia provided no evidence that these prisoners were on the crashed plane.

Ukrainian officials meet relatives of POWs who Russia claims were in crashed Il-76, say no evidence to confirm that
Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said on Jan. 26 that during the planned exchange of POWs two days earlier Moscow was to return to Ukraine 65 people from one of the lists Russian propagandists shared after the crash of Il-76 transport plane in Russia’s Belgor…

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