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All responsibility for what happens to Ukrainian prisoners lies with Russia. Important nuances about the crash of the IL-76

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There are many versions of the downing of the IL-76, but Ukrainians should keep their focus. All the blood of Ukrainians is on the hands of the aggressor. Russia is solely responsible for everything that happens to Ukrainian prisoners.

We must clearly distinguish between the information provided by official representatives of the military and political leadership of Ukraine and a number of unofficial versions that are currently circulating online regarding the downing or shooting down of the Russian IL-76 on January 24 in the Belgorod region.

The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine was the first to officially respond and provide the clearest position on the IL-76 crash:

  • The Defense Intelligence confirmed the intention to hold exchanges between Ukraine and Russia on January 24. Ukraine has fulfilled all previous agreements on the exchange of prisoners of war. The process was disrupted by the Russian side.
  • So far, no evidence has been provided to indicate the presence of Ukrainian prisoners on board the downed IL-76.
  • However, such a possibility cannot be dismissed. The situation is very similar to Olenivka, when Russia defiantly executed Ukrainian prisoners, trying to blame the Ukrainian side for the attack.
  • Russia is a terrorist country that is capable of committing terrible crimes to achieve its own goals and intimidate. And even sacrificing their own plane with the Russian crew “in the name of Kremlin propaganda” is not a big deal for them.
  • We are checking it out. The DIU is working to find out the fate of all the prisoners.
  • This is a case where haste can harm both our people and the reputation of Ukraine as a whole. Not all the information that may already be at the disposal of Ukrainian intelligence has the right to be made public for security reasons.

Air transport has been used by Russia in a number of previous exchanges, but not always. Last time, when 230 Ukrainian defenders returned to Ukraine, the same air service was used, but then Russia informed Ukraine that the plane was landing and there were prisoners on board.

Andriy Yusov, representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine

What is already known?

  • The plane crashed over the airport in Belgorod. This is an important detail when approaching or taking off.
  • According to the Russians, the plane was traveling from the Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow.
  • According to independent analysts who monitor the movements of Russian aircraft, the plane was on its way to land. Most sources are inclined to believe that the plane was shot down during the approach. In particular, Deutsche Welle writes about this.
  • The nature of the damage indicates that the plane was shot down: a large amount of debris, an explosion before the crash.
  • Russia does often use air transport to deliver Ukrainian prisoners for exchanges. But the airfield in Belgorod is 40 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The closest and only functioning “corridor” for exchanges is located 95 kilometers from Belgorod, at the Kolotylivka-Pokrovka checkpoint.
  • Landing an airplane, especially an IL-76 transporter with a length of 46 meters, is simply impossible in this area. Where could the prisoners who were already in the 40-kilometer zone from the Ukrainian border have been transported by plane?
  • The next disagreement. The Il-76 is capable of carrying 160 to 245 people, including personal weapons and other equipment that personnel may have on them. Why would you want to fly a plane like this to transport only 65 people plus crew?
  • The Russian side claims to have warned Ukrainians about the route of delivery of prisoners. Ukrainian intelligence categorically denied this information.
  • Another detail, and it needs to be constantly discussed, is that any Russian military aircraft within range of the Ukrainian Defense Forces is a legitimate target for us.
  • Belgorod Airport has been closed to civilian air traffic since February 24, 2022 (Rosaviatsia information). Therefore, the Ukrainian side clearly knew that only military aircraft could be at this particular site, which could also pose a potential threat to our territories.
  • We cannot dismiss the possibility that Russia deliberately exposed its own aircraft to attack in order to gain international resonance. After all, literally immediately after the fall, when the details were not yet known, the official Kremlin demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
  • The aggressor country was going to raise the issue of transferring Western weapons to Ukraine, including missiles capable of operating at long range. Recognizing the manipulative nature of this demand, France, which currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, refused Lavrov’s request.

Regarding the list of prisoners who allegedly died on board the IL-76, which was published by Simonyan.

Information is circulating online that at least two people from the Russian propagandist’s list have been exchanged before. Some sources say 18 people.

  • However, none of these figures has been officially confirmed.
  • As for 18 people, there is essentially no source of information at all, a telegram channel for 160 people. That is, it could be a hoax.
  • The most powerful argument currently working in favor of the version that there were no Ukrainian prisoners on board is the absence of bodies. Or rather, the Russians have not shown anything of the sort so far.

Unfortunately, the impunity of Russia’s terrorist actions further unleashes the aggressor’s hands. The terrorist attack in Olenivka did not receive a relevant reaction from the West. Now we have a potentially similar situation.

Russia is well aware that for Ukrainian society, the return of prisoners is a sensitive and deeply personal issue. Therefore, he uses this topic to play on the emotions of Ukrainians and families. This is an element of information warfare.

According to the Geneva Conventions, full responsibility for the life and health of prisoners of war lies with those who hold them. And also, the country that transports prisoners of war must fully ensure their safety and report and inform the ICRC about the movement of prisoners of war. In this case, this responsibility is on Russia

Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets on the air of “National Marathon” January 25

We wrote about other information components of this Russian operation here.

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