Kyiv confirmed that a prisoner exchange was due to take place on Wednesday, Jan. 24, but said it had no reliable information on the passengers of the Russian IL-76 plane that was shot down in the western Belgorod region of Russia.
Additionally, it claimed Ukrainian special services 'had no prior warning on airspace safety near Belgorod."
"Ukraine received no prior notification about the need to ensure airspace safety near the city of Belgorod within a specific timeframe," Ukraine's main intelligence directorate (HUR) said in a statement.
Moscow said 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers were killed when an IL-76 plane was shot down in its western Belgorod region, close to the border with Ukraine, ahead of a planned prisoner exchange between the two sides.
Furthermore, according to the official message, Kyiv was not provided with information regarding the quantity of vehicles, routes, and methodologies employed for the transportation of prisoners.
"Landing a transport plane in a 30-kilometer combat zone is not safe and must be discussed by both sides, in any case, because otherwise, it jeopardizes the entire exchange process," Ukraine's Intelligence said in a statement.
"Based on this, we can talk about planned and deliberate actions of the Russian Federation in order to destabilize the situation in Ukraine and weaken international support for our state." it added.
A couple of hours before this announcement, Andriy Yusov, Ukraine's Defence Intelligence (HUR) representative, confirmed Kyiv Post that the POW exchange between Russia and Ukraine was supposed to occur today, Jan. 24. However, he said, " It is not taking place now."
"The exchange planned for today is not taking place," he said, providing no further information at this time.
Russia on Wednesday, Jan. 24, accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners headed for a prisoner exchange, killing everyone on board.
Videos on social media showed a large plane in Russia's western Belgorod region falling from the sky on its side before crashing in a fireball.
Russia's defence ministry said the IL-76 plane was carrying 65 Ukrainian soldiers captured in Russia's offensive, six crew and three escorts.
It claimed Ukrainian forces stationed in the Kharkiv border region had fired two missiles at the transport aircraft and described the incident as a "terrorist act".
"At 11:15 am (0815 GMT) today, the Ukrainian regime in Kyiv committed a terrorist act by shooting down a Russian military transport aircraft," it said.
Local Ukrainian media "Ukrainska Pravda" initially cited defence sources saying that the Ukrainian army had downed the plane and that it was carrying missiles for S-300 missile system. The claim was later retracted.
In a statement published hours after the crash, the Ukrainian army said it would continue to target Russian aircraft in Belgorod region.
It said that a number of shelling attacks on Ukrainian territory were "directly related" to Russian military transport aircraft flying to Belgorod airfield.
"The Ukrainian army will continue to take measures to destroy delivery vehicles and control the airspace to eliminate the terrorist threat, including in the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction," it said.
Meanwhile, Russian propagandist RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan published a list of Ukrainian prisoners of war who, according to her, were on the Il-76 aircraft.
The list contains the names, surnames, and dates of birth of 65 people. Its authenticity has not been confirmed.
However, according to the UNIAN telegram channel, at least 18 of the 65 POWs mentioned in the list were already exchanged in previous swaps. Kyiv Post has yet to verify the information.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, has instructed the preparation of an appeal to the US Congress and the German parliament in connection with the crash of the IL-76 military transport aircraft in the Belgorod region, as reported by RIA Novosti.
"Let's prepare an appeal to the US Congress and the German Bundestag so that the deputies finally see who they are financing and who they are helping," Volodin stated during a plenary session of the State Duma.
Preceding the first reports of the Il-76 crash, a missile alert was issued in Belgorod, prompting residents to seek refuge in secure locations away from windows.
Approximately half an hour later, at 11:43 Moscow time, the head of the region announced the cancellation of the missile danger signal.
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