The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed Wednesday that Ukraine launched two missiles at the Il-76 military transport aircraft, killing all 74 people on board.
“Today at 11:15 am, the Kiev regime committed a terrorist act, as a result of which a Russian military transport aircraft was shot down,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that all passengers on board were killed.
According to the statement, the aircraft was hit on its way from the Chkalovsky airfield to Belgorod while it was transporting Ukrainian military personnel for a prisoner exchange.
“The Ukrainian armed forces destroyed the plane… with the use of an anti-aircraft missile system,” it said, adding that the Russian radar equipment detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles.
The Defense Ministry said that Ukraine knew that its prisoners would be transported to Belgorod for an exchange based on an agreement previously reached between the two sides.
Kiev’s move was an attempt to blame Russia for the deaths of the Ukrainian military personnel on board, said the Russian statement.
Meanwhile, Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian side is checking reports that Ukrainian captives were onboard the Il-76 plane.
He also said that the prisoner exchange with Russia had been canceled, according to a Ukrayinska Pravda report.
“I can state that the exchange planned for today is currently not taking place,” Yusov was cited as saying.
The Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported earlier in the day that the Russian Il-76 plane was shot down shortly after takeoff, citing a source linked to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.