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Russia’s Putin says Ukraine shot down plane, deliberately or in error

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Russian military plane that crashed near the Ukraine border was downed by Ukrainian air defenses, whether intentionally or accidentally. Moscow alleges that the Ilyushin Il-76 plane crashed in Russia’s Belgorod region on Wednesday, resulting in the tragic deaths of 74 people on board, including 65 Ukrainian soldiers being exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. However, Russia has not presented any evidence to support these claims.

Ukraine, in response, neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the plane crash, challenging Moscow’s narrative and disputing details about the passengers. Putin, addressing the incident for the first time, stated, “I don’t know if they did it on purpose or by mistake, but it is obvious that they did it. In any case, what happened is a crime. Either through negligence or on purpose, but in any case, it is a crime.”

Ukraine contests Russia’s assertion that it was warned about the plane carrying Ukrainian POWs flying over Russia’s Belgorod region. Discrepancies in a list published by Russian media detailing the alleged 65 Ukrainians on the plane have been pointed out by Ukrainian authorities.

The Russian Investigative Committee released a video claiming to show Ukrainian soldiers boarding the Il-76 aircraft. However, Ukrainian commentators have raised doubts about the video’s authenticity. Putin ruled out the possibility of Russian “friendly fire,” suggesting that the plane was likely hit by American or French missiles, with more details expected in the coming days.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Zelenskiy criticized Putin’s comments, calling them a “classic disinformation” campaign aimed at undermining Kyiv’s right to secure air defense missiles from its partners.

The Russian Investigative Committee reported the recovery of Ukrainian identity documents and tattooed body parts from the crash site. The evidence, it claims, includes documents of Ukrainian servicemen who perished in the disaster. However, independent verification of these claims remains challenging, and Ukraine maintains it lacks credible information about the passengers on board.

Ukraine rejects Russia’s claim of prior notification and points to discrepancies in the purported list of names published by Russian media. The fate of the recovered body remains and the credibility of the evidence remain uncertain. Russian state media reports that black box flight recorders from the plane have been delivered to a Moscow defense ministry laboratory for investigation.

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