Disaster: 65 POWs die as Russian aircraft crashes near Ukraine border
New Delhi: A Russian military transport plane, Ilyushin II-76, carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six crew, and three people accompanying them crashed on Wednesday morning in Russia’s Belgorod region near Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone survived or what caused the crash at around 11 AM, the media reported.
Russia said no survivors are likely.
Officials were investigating the cause of the crash, and a special military commission was on the way to the crash site, the Defense Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a major Russian missile attack that was devised to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses had killed 18 people and injured 130. Ukraine is marking the 700th day since the full-scale invasion by the Kremlin’s forces started in February 2023.
On Tuesday morning, the Russian barrage employing over 40 ballistic, cruise, anti-aircraft, and guided missiles hit nearly 130 residential buildings in three Ukrainian cities, all ordinary houses, Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.
Russia’s onslaught, which included targets in the capital Kyiv, and second-largest city Kharkiv, was the heaviest in weeks and lent weight to Zelenskyy’s appeals for Western allies to provide more military aid.
In 2024, Zelenskyy said on X on Tuesday, that the key priority is to strengthen air defense to protect cities and towns, as well as defend frontline positions.
With the 1,500-kilometer-long front line largely static amid icy weather and as both sides seek to replenish their weapons stockpiles, the war recently has focused on long-range strikes. Russia stockpiled missiles to pursue a winter campaign of aerial bombardment, while Ukraine has sought to strike inside Russia with new types of drones.
Russia may have employed decoy missiles in Tuesday’s attack to open up holes in Ukraine’s air defenses, a U.S. think tank said.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Moscow is likely trying to acquire more ballistic missiles from foreign countries, including Iran and North Korea, because they may be more effective in some circumstances.
Another barrage of Russian S-300 missiles struck residential districts of Kharkiv late Tuesday, injuring nine people and damaging residential buildings, regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
But Russia denied its forces struck civilian areas, although there is substantial evidence to the contrary, the media reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that air defenses shot down four Ukrainian drones over the Oryol region of western Russia early Wednesday.
Ukraine’s allies have promised to keep sending military aid packages, even though their resources are stretched. Help from the United States, by far Ukraine’s single biggest provider, has also hit political snags.
The German defense ministry announced Wednesday that it plans to send six SEA KING Mk41 multi-role helicopters from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the war military deliveries from Germany have amounted to around 6 billion euros ($6.52 billion), including substantial anti-aircraft and air defense systems, the government said.