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25 Jan, 2024 17:45

Ukraine killed POWs with American missile – French state media

The US has not commented on the attack, which left 74 people dead
Ukraine killed POWs with American missile – French state media

Ukrainian forces used a US-supplied Patriot missile to shoot down a Russian cargo plane carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, French state broadcaster Radio France reported on Wednesday, citing a source in the country's military. 

The Il-76 military transport plane was shot down over Russia’s Belgorod Region on Wednesday morning. Everyone on board – 65 prisoners, six flight crew, and three Russian soldiers – died; Russia’s Defense Ministry claims that the plane was brought down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles. 

The prisoners were being transported to the city of Belgorod to be exchanged for Russian servicemen in Ukrainian captivity, the ministry stated, adding that the Ukrainian side had been made aware of the incoming flight.

Radio France’s source did not provide any additional information, but the claim backs up an earlier assertion by a senior Russian MP that “Patriot or Iris-T air defense missiles” were used to bring the aircraft down.

The defense ministry stated that the missiles were launched from the Liptsy suburb of Kharkov, around 100km from the site of the crash. Both the American Patriot and German Iris-T systems are capable of engaging targets from this range, and the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Wednesday that it regularly uses such systems to target Russian military flights in the area, without explicitly admitting that it shot down the Il-76.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has not admitted that his forces were responsible for the downing of the plane. In a statement on Wednesday, he called for an “international investigation” to determine “all the hard facts” surrounding the incident. 

The closest step to an admission of guilt came from Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, the GUR. In a statement on Wednesday night, the agency claimed that it “was not informed about the need to ensure the safety of the airspace” over the border, and that it did not know how the prisoners would be transported.

The White House has not commented on the alleged use of Patriot missiles in the incident. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday that the US was “not in a position to confirm” any reports on the attack, and was working to “get more clarity and more information on it.”

Russian Foreign MInister Sergey Lavrov requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the incident. France, which holds the council’s rotating chairmanship, refused this request, calling a meeting on Thursday afternoon instead.