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What we know about Russian plane crash

Russia has accused Ukraine of shooting down the military transport plane just northeast of Belgorod in western Russia on Wednesday.

In this photo taken from validated UGC video smoke rises from the scene of a warplane crash at a residential area near Yablonovo, Belgorod region, Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2024. Russia says a military transport plane that was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war has crashed in a Russian region near Ukraine. (Validated UGC video via AP)
Smoke rises from the scene of a warplane crash at a residential Russian area near Ukraine. (AP)

Ukraine's president has called for an investigation into the Russian plane crash that killed 74 people on Wednesday, after Russia insisted Ukraine was to blame.

Russia has accused Ukraine of shooting down the military transport plane near the Ukrainian border – something that has not been denied by Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said: "All clear facts must be established... our state will insist on an international investigation."

The country's military did not say whether it downed the plane or not – but said in a statement it would continue to destroy Russian military aircraft that it believed were carrying missiles with which to strike Ukraine.

The plane crashed in a huge fireball, killing everyone on board, the Russian defence ministry said. Belgorod region, the site of the crash, has come under frequent attack from Ukraine in recent months, including a December missile strike which killed 25 people.

Here's a breakdown of what we know - and don't know - about the Russian plane crash:

What we know

The crashed plane is an Ilyushin Il-76, a large military transport plane designed to carry troops, cargo or weapons. It has a normal crew of five people, and can carry up to 90 passengers.

In this handout photo taken from validated UGC video show flames rising from the scene of a warplane crashed at a residential area near Yablonovo, Belgorod region, Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2024. Russia says a military transport plane that was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war has crashed in a Russian region near Ukraine. (Validated UGC video via AP)
The passengers on board the plane were all killed in a huge fireball after it came down at a residential area near Yablonovo, Belgorod region. (AP)

The crash took place just northeast of Belgorod in western Russia, close to the border with Ukraine, at 11.15 on Wednesday morning.

Belgorod region has been the target of frequent cross-border attacks by Ukraine, including at the end of December 2023, when 25 people were killed and more than 100 injured in one of the deadliest incidents on Russian soil since the start of the Ukraine conflict.

Eyewitnesses to the crash described seeing “some red elongated flying object” before hearing an explosion and seeing a “red flash”. All 74 people on board the plane were killed in the huge fireball as the plane crash- landed.

A Yablonovo resident, Marina Mezentseva, told Reuters that there were “two explosions” adding: "After that we all ran outside, even the doctor, in case there's any help needed. It crashed far away from the village. It was very loud and scary."

What we don’t know

While there have been many claims and counter-claims by both Russian and Ukrainian officials, little has thus far been verified.

Russia said that there were 65 Ukrainian prisoners on board the plane, as well as six Russian crew members and three Russian soldiers. However there are no records confirming this as yet – and Ukrainian military intelligence said it had no reliable information about who was aboard the crashed plane.

Russian state TV journalist Margarita Simonyan published what she said was a list of the 65 names of the Ukrainian POWs on the plane – however this also has yet to be verified.

ANKARA, TURKIYE - JANUARY 24: An infographic titled 'Russian military plane crashed in Belgorod region
The Russian military plane was said to be heading to Ukraine for a prisoner swap before it crashed in the Belgorod region. (Getty)

Ukrainian military intelligence has confirmed a prisoner swap was planned for Wednesday, and said Kyiv had met all the terms for it, but claimed they were not informed by Russia about the means of transport for the prisoners of war, or their routes. It is not known whether Ukraine was asked to guarantee the security of the airspace at a specific time, as Russian officials are claiming.

We also don’t know whether the plane was shot down on purpose, as Russian officials are claiming. Ukrainian military intelligence has not confirmed if it had shot down the plane, and said Russia's accusations could be "a planned action to destabilise the situation in Ukraine and weaken international support for our state".

Russia’s defence ministry said its radar detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles from Ukraine's Kharkiv region, while Russian lawmaker and former general Andrei Kartapolov spoke of three missiles and said they were either US Patriots or German-made IRIS-Ts.

However, there has been no evidence provided about what – if any – missiles were used to bring the plane down, with Russia only saying it would determine what kind they were when they recovered fragments from the crash site.

It is also not known whether the plane veered out of control and off-course in mid-air, or whether it changed its planned course to avoid crashing in a village.