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Russia says Ukraine had 15-minute warning before Il-76 flight, Kyiv denies claim

by Abbey Fenbert and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 26, 2024 4:51 AM 2 min read
Illustrative photo of an Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft at the Chkalovsky Military Airport outside Moscow, Russia, on March 22, 2020. (Russian Ministry of Defense / Alexey Ereshko / Handout / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Senior Russian lawmaker Andrey Kartopolov claimed on Jan. 25 that Ukraine was given a 15-minute-warning ahead of the flight of the Il-76 plane that crashed in Belgorod Oblast on Jan. 24, though Ukrainian officials deny receiving any such notification.

Russia has alleged that the downed military aircraft was destroyed by Ukrainian forces, and that it was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) at the time it was shot down. Ukraine has called Russia's narrative into question and demanded an international investigation.

"The Ukrainian side was officially warned, and 15 minutes before the plane entered the zone they were given complete information," Kartopolov told Russian lawmakers.

Ukraine's military intelligence, known as HUR, said on Jan. 24 that Russia provided no warnings regarding airspace safety before the flight of the Il-76.

HUR representatives said that although Russian officials in the past repeatedly gave notice about the need to ensure air safety in the event of a prisoner exchange, the Ukrainian military were not given advance warning on Jan. 24.

HUR also said the lack of warning may have been a "deliberate" tactic by Russia to "create a threat to the life and safety of the prisoners."

Ukrainian officials have also said that they cannot confirm Russia's claims that 65 POWs were killed in the crash.

Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on Jan. 25 that some POWs listed as killed in the crash had already been exchanged for Russian prisoners at an earlier date. Lubinets also said that images from the crash site do not indicate "any signs that there were such a large number of people on the plane."

HUR confirmed that a prisoner swap was scheduled for Jan. 24, but said it did not take place.

The U.N. Security Council met on Jan. 25 at Russia's request to discuss the circumstances surrounding the crash.

U.N. Under-Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo said the organization is not able at this time to verify the facts of the incident.

“What is clear is that the incident took place in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war,” DiCarlo said.

“To avoid further escalation, we urge all concerned to refrain from actions, rhetoric or allegations that could further fuel the already dangerous conflict.”

Ukraine war latest: Russia says Ukrainian POWs were in crashed II-76 aircraft, Kyiv calls for investigation
A Russian Il-76 transport aircraft allegedly carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war crashed in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast on Jan. 24 at around 11 a.m. local time, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing the country’s Defense Ministry.
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