US-supplied missile shot down plane carrying Ukrainian POWs – investigators (VIDEO)
A Russian cargo plane carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) for exchange was downed last week by a US-made Patriot air defense system, the country’s Investigative Committee has confirmed.
In a statement on Thursday, the agency said that it had identified the type of weapon used to shoot down the Il-76 last Wednesday over Belgorod Region. There were 65 Ukrainian POWs, three Russian troops, and six crew members on board, all of whom died in the crash.
The Investigative Committee said that Ukraine fired two missiles from a staging area in Kharkov Region, not far from the village of Liptsy, some 10km from the Russian border.
Officials said that during the investigation they found 116 missile fragments bearing inscriptions in English, with one of them reading: “CONFIDENTIAL classified by PATRIOT SECURITY CLASSIFICATION GUIDE DATED: 9/22/83 ADDENDA DATED 11/28/83 8/8/84 CONTRACT NO/DAAH01-86C-A018.”
Another piece also read “Raytheon,” a reference to one of the designers of the Patriot air defense system, the statement said, adding that an extensive series of forensic tests found that the composition of the explosives indicates they were most likely produced abroad.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also weighed in on the investigation. She stressed that “US citizens must know where their money is going,” and accused the Biden administration of making them “accessories to a bloody tragedy.”
President Vladimir Putin said previously that the plane had been downed by a US-made Patriot and called for an international investigation into the matter. However, he claimed there was no official organization willing to undertake the task. He also said he “does not understand” why Ukraine would want to kill dozens of its POWs, suggesting that it may have been an accident.
Ukrainian authorities have not directly confirmed responsibility for the attack, stating only that they were not informed by Moscow that they had to guarantee air security over Belgorod Region at the time. Russia insists that Kiev received all the relevant information.
While the tragedy initially cast doubt on the possibility of further prisoner exchanges, on Wednesday Russia and Ukraine conducted the largest POW swap to date. Each side turned over 195 service members.