French military agrees with Russia on downed plane – AP
The French military has concluded that Ukrainian forces used an American-supplied Patriot air defense system to shoot down a Russian plane carrying prisoners of war, an official told the Associated Press on Friday. Russian investigators have reached the same verdict.
The plane, a Russian Il-76, was shot down over Belgorod Region last Wednesday while carrying 65 captured Ukrainian servicemen who were set to take part in a prisoner swap later that day. All of the POWs, as well as three Russian officers and six crew members, died in the crash.
A French military official told the Associated Press that a Patriot air defense battery was used to target the plane from around 50 kilometers away. Ukrainian forces surreptitiously moved the battery into range before turning on its radar “just long enough to hit [the plane],” the official said.
With an initial search of the crash site suggesting that a French missile may have been used to commit the attack, sources within the French military have already been telling the media for more than a week that the missile involved was American.
In a report released on Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee concluded that the plane was brought down using two MIM-104A surface-to-air missiles launched from a Patriot battery near the Ukrainian village of Liptsy. Liptsy is located in Kharkov Region, around 10km from the Russian border.
Missile fragments found at the blast site bore English-language inscriptions, which revealed that the two projectiles were from a batch made in the 1980s. One piece read “Raytheon,” a reference to the US arms maker that jointly designed the Patriot system.
Following the Investigative Committee’s report, a source within Russia’s security services told TASS that it is very likely that there were American specialists among the crew operating the system.
Kiev has refused to admit responsibility for the attack. However, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said that it regularly uses such systems to target Russian military flights in the area. Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, the GUR, stated that it was unsure whether the prisoners would be taken to the exchange point by air or other means and that it “was not informed about the need to ensure the safety of the airspace” over the border region.
The GUR knew that the plane was carrying Ukrainian POWs, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week. Putin accused the “entire Kiev regime” of committing “crimes against its own citizens.” By supplying the missiles that shot down the aircraft, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova declared on Thursday that US President Joe Biden and his administration have made Americans “complicit in a bloody tragedy.”