President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Jan. 24 that Ukraine will insist on an international investigation into the crash of the Russian Il-76 transport plane in Belgorod Oblast.
A Russian Il-72 military transport plane crashed in Belgorod Oblast the morning of Jan. 24, killing all aboard. Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that 65 Ukrainian POWs were on the plane en route to a prisoner exchange when it crashed.
Commenting on Russia's claims, Zelensky said that Ukraine's military intelligence agency (HUR) “was clarifying the fate of the POWs.” He did not confirm whether they were on the plane.
“It is obvious that the Russians are playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners, with the feelings of their relatives and with the emotions of our society,” the president said.
Zelensky said he spoke with Ukraine's military leadership, including Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Chief of the General Staff Serhii Shaptala, regarding the crash.
Zelensky further instructed Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to inform international partners about the data available to Ukraine as the investigation proceeds.
"We need to establish all the clear facts. As much as possible, given that the plane went down on Russian territory — beyond our control. 'Facts' is the key word now," Zelensky said.
The General Staff said in a statement earlier on Jan. 24 that the Ukrainian military would continue to destroy the missile delivery vehicles Russia uses to shell Kharkiv Oblast, which borders Belgorod Oblast, without mentioning the crash of the Il-76.
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said White House couldn’t confirm claims that Ukrainian POWs were in the plane that crashed in Belgorod Oblast.