Kyiv has questioned why Russia has so far failed to provide proof of its claim that 65 Ukrainian POWs were on board a military plane shot down near Belgorod on Wednesday.

“There are a number of factors that are unclear,” Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine's HUR military intelligence said in an interview with state TV on Saturday.

“First of all, they did not show fields covered with corpses and remains,” he said.

“If it happened as Russia claims, why does Russia ... continue to hide the bodies?”

On Wednesday, a Russian IL-76 plane fell from the sky in Russia’s western Belgorod region, crashing into the ground in a giant fireball.

But who shot it down and who was onboard have become the subject of a heated war of words between Kyiv and Moscow.


Russia – acknowledging the downing of one of its planes with uncharacteristic speed – said 65 Ukrainian POWs were on board and were being taken to a prisoner swap at the border with Ukraine.

Kyiv has confirmed a prisoner exchange was due to take place on the same day and has not explicitly denied shooting down the plane, AFP reports.

But Ukraine is questioning key parts of the Russian narrative, particularly who was on board.

It also said Moscow did not request a temporary aerial ceasefire near the border, as it had previously when POWs were being flown to a scheduled exchange.

Russia's Investigative Committee has published three videos of what it says is the crash site. 

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One showed a blurred close-up of a dead body. In another, a forensics team is sealing up a single body bag.

A third was grainy footage purporting to show vehicles transporting the prisoners to the plane before it took off, but the quality was too poor to verify this.

“There are no corpses,” Budanov said on Saturday. “There is nothing.”


Budanov conceded that neither side had all the answers to what exactly happened, saying: “Unfortunately, we must state that neither side can fully answer what happened there.


“Russia's position is clear, to blame Ukraine for everything, even though several facts are incomprehensible for such a position.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Budanov's HUR was aware the prisoners were going to be transferred by plane.

He said it was “obvious” Ukrainian forces shot it down and had gone ahead with the attack knowing it could have been carrying their own troops though did not provide proof.

Kyiv has not yet outlined its version of events, although President Zelensky has called for an international investigation, and both sides have opened criminal probes.

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