Kiev ‘deliberately’ sabotaged prisoner swap – Moscow
Ukrainian troops shot down a Russian military plane carrying their fellow soldiers in order to derail a prisoner swap, Moscow’s envoy told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
The Il-76 cargo aircraft crashed in Russia’s border region of Belgorod on Wednesday morning, killing everyone on board. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the plane was transporting 65 Ukrainian POWs slated for exchange later that day.
“All currently available data points to a deliberate, premeditated crime,” Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy representative to the UN, said. “The Ukrainian leadership was well aware about the route and means by which [the Ukrainian] soldiers would have been transported to the agreed exchange point.”
“It was not the first such operation. However, for some inexplicable reason, the regime in Kiev had decided this time to sabotage [the swap] in the most barbaric way,” the diplomat added.
According to Polyansky, the aircraft was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile fired from the village of Liptsy in Kharkov Region in eastern Ukraine. A preliminary investigation has found that either a US-made Patriot missiles or German-made IRIS-T was used in the attack, he said.
“If this is confirmed, the Western countries that supplied [the missile] will be directly complicit in this crime, just as they are complicit in Ukraine’s shelling of peaceful neighborhoods of Russian cities using Western weapons,” Polyansky told the council.
Kiev confirmed that a prisoner swap was scheduled to take place the same day the plane was downed, while the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it considers all Russian military aircraft legitimate targets. In a video address on Wednesday night, President Vladimir Zelensky called for an international probe into the incident. He did not say who was responsible for downing the Il-76, however.
Addressing the Security Council, Ukraine’s deputy envoy, Kristina Gayovishin, stopped short of directly blaming Russia for shooting down the plane carrying the POWs. Nevertheless, she argued that “Russia bears full responsibility for all atrocities, deaths and destruction caused by the war.”
Gayovishin added that Ukrainian troops will continue to target Il-76s and other Russian military planes, including those operating in the “Belgorod-Kharkov direction.”