Sixty five servicemen who were declared dead in the crash of the IL-76 aircraft by the Russians are still considered prisoners of war, spokesperson of Ukrainian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR), Andriy Yusov, said in an interview with the Ukrainian outlet Espresso TV on Feb. 13.
Yusov noted that the HUR confirms the list of soldiers published by Russia claiming their deaths actually contains names of soldiers currently in Russian captivity. However, Ukraine has not changed their status.
“Yes, they were submitted for an exchange that was canceled when the Russian plane went down,” he said.
“No one warned anyone that there were Ukrainian prisoners on board. The silence regime did not apply then, unlike other exchanges, when everything was organized properly and we were informed that the plane was transporting Ukrainian prisoners.”
If the IL-76 was carrying, for example, missiles for the S-300 along with Ukrainian prisoners, this would constitute another war crime by Russia, said Yusov.
He added that Ukraine has been submitting requests to Russia to return the bodies of the “killed”servicemen, but there has been no response. These requests will continue to be submitted.
Furthermore, Ukraine is conducting its own investigation, opened by the Ukraine’s SBU Security Service.
“At the same time, Ukraine initiated an independent international investigation. But, strangely enough, the aggressor state has once again rejected this proposal,” Yusov added.
Earlier, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated that there were no Ukrainian prisoners of war on the Russian Il-76 plane that crashed in Belgorod Oblast on Jan. 24. However, Ukraine does not know for certain whether the soldiers who were supposed to be returned are alive.
Read also: Putin lies about IL-76 aircraft — HUR
Russian IL-76 crash — what is known
A Russian IL-76 military transport plane, designed to airlift troops, cargo, military equipment, and weapons, crashed in the Korocha district of the southern Belgorod Oblast, which borders Ukraine, on Jan. 24.
A video of the incident appeared on social media. The footage showed the plane catching fire in midair and exploding in a huge fireball when it crashed.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that 65 Ukrainian POWs were on board, heading to Belgorod Oblast for a prisoner exchange. Russia accused Ukraine of taking down the plane.
Ukraine’s General Staff, as quoted by NV’s sister outlet Ukrainska Pravda, said the plane was transporting missiles for Russia’s S-300 air defense systems. There was no mention of prisoners of war.
However, the head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR), Andriy Yusov, said a prisoner exchange had been scheduled to take place.
“I can state that the exchange planned for today is not going ahead,” he told Radio Svoboda.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces are not currently confirming that they downed the aircraft on the morning of Jan. 24, Armed Forces spokesperson Bohdan Senyk told NV.
The General Staff has officially stated that it tracks the launch sites of Russian missiles and the logistics of their delivery, especially by military transport aircraft, and will “continue to take measures to destroy delivery planes and control the airspace in order to destroy the terrorist threat.”
The Russians did not warn Ukraine about the need to secure the airspace near Belgorod, as they had done before. Ukraine was also not informed about the form of delivery of the prisoners, the route, or the number of vehicles.
NV’s sources in the Ukrainian Air Force said that Russia was regularly bringing ammunition to the front several times a day using IL-76s, which fly a well-established route.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening address on Jan. 24 that Russia was playing with the lives of prisoners, the feelings of their families, and the emotions of Ukrainian society. He said that all the facts surrounding the downing of the IL-76 should be established and that Ukraine would initiate an international investigation.
207 defenders returned to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange on Jan. 31. The Coordination Headquarters clarified that 65 soldiers who, according to the Russians, were on the plane, were not among those released.
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine