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1 Feb, 2024 11:56

All victims of Ukrainian POW plane crash identified – investigators

DNA testing and a review of documents have confirmed the death of 74 people, Russian officials have said
All victims of Ukrainian POW plane crash identified – investigators

Russian investigators say they have identified the remains of all passengers and crew who were on board a cargo plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war that was shot down by Kiev’s forces in Belgorod Region last week.

Moscow has accused Ukraine of downing the Il-76 aircraft which was carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs as well as three Russian troops and six crew members last Wednesday. The prisoners were being transported to the region for an exchange with Kiev.

Russia has said that the plane was destroyed by two missiles fired from a US-made Patriot air defense system stationed in Ukraine's Kharkov Region.

In a statement on Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said that it had identified the remains of the deceased as part of the ongoing criminal case. It noted that it had found and recovered more than 670 body fragments in the area of the crash as well as some surviving personal documents.

Officials added that Moscow takes required samples of genetic material from Ukrainian POWs, which means it has the necessary information to identify the crash victims. As a result, they said, investigators were able to confirm that the remains indeed belonged to 65 Ukrainian captives as well as Russian crew members and military personnel.

The agency also released a heavily censored video showing an operative scouring the snow-covered crash site. Investigators can be seen gathering evidence into packages, with the rest of the clip showing what appear to be blood-stained body parts with conspicuous tattoos.

Russia has condemned the downing of the plane as a “terrorist act,” and has called for an international investigation. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he “does not understand” why Ukraine needed to destroy a plane with its own POWs who were about to return home.

Kiev has not claimed responsibility for shooting down the Il-76, but has said that it was not informed by Moscow that they had to ensure air security over Belgorod Region at the time. Russia insists that Kiev received all the relevant information.