Russian Military Plane Crashes Into Huge Fireball After Reportedly Being Shot Down

By Ethan Cole on
 January 25, 2024

A Russian military transport plane, reportedly carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), tragically crashed near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region. The Ilyushin Il-76, a large 164ft aircraft, was seen nosediving before violently colliding with the ground and erupting in a massive fireball, according to eyewitness videos.

The incident, resulting in the deaths of all 74 individuals on board, marks a significant and controversial event in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The crash occurred in the village of Yablonovo, merely 26 miles from the Ukrainian border, sparking immediate and conflicting reports from Russian and Ukrainian officials. Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, confirmed the devastating loss of life. The Russian military, within minutes of the crash, claimed the plane was transporting Ukrainian POWs, six crew members, and three accompanying individuals.

Conflicting Reports and Accusations Arise

Initial claims from Ukrainian military sources, later retracted, indicated that the downing of the aircraft was their action. They alleged the plane was carrying S-300 air defense missiles. Andrei Kartapolov, a member of Russia's State Duma and a retired general, countered these claims, asserting without evidence that the plane was shot down by missiles supplied to Ukraine by Western countries.

Kartapolov suggested that investigations would reveal whether the missiles used were US-made Patriots or German IRIS-Ts. His claim stirred controversy and raised questions about the real circumstances surrounding the incident.

Kartapolov said:

It was absolutely deliberate. They knew very well that the plane was en route, where it was going and the operators of (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile systems cannot mistake transport planes for military planes or helicopters as targets. It was done deliberately to sabotage the prisoner exchange.

Ukrainian Response and International Reaction

Ukraine's military intelligence service released a statement denying reliable information about the plane's passengers. They emphasized their commitment to the prisoner exchange agreement scheduled for the same day while also noting Russia's responsibility for the safety of their defenders under the agreement. The Ukrainian statement also refuted having been asked to ensure airspace safety near Belgorod during the exchange.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the Russian accusations by emphasizing the need for an international investigation to establish clear facts. Zelensky's call for an investigation coincided with the UN Security Council's agreement to meet and discuss Moscow's allegations regarding the plane crash.

Ukraine’s air force commander, Mykola Oleshchuk, accused Russia of trying to discredit Ukraine and pledged the continuation of strikes against enemy targets. "The goal is obvious - they want to diminish the international support for our state. It won't work!" Oleshchuk wrote on Telegram.

Investigations and Emerging Doubts

Amidst the ensuing chaos, the crash site in the Belgorod region became a point of contention. Reports indicated that the Russian Emergencies Ministry staff, usually responsible for air crash sites, was replaced by Defence Ministry soldiers. This move and efforts to recover scattered documents added to the mystery surrounding the incident.

Prominent Ukrainian journalist Illia Ponomarenko expressed skepticism regarding the Russian narrative, particularly the claim that only three Russians accompanied 65 Ukrainian POWs. This doubt was echoed by Ukrainian POW veteran Max Kolesnikov, who deemed such a low guard-to-prisoner ratio implausible based on his experience.

Further complicating the narrative, Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT state media empire, published a list of names supposedly on the plane. However, discrepancies emerged as some of those named had reportedly been returned to Ukraine earlier in the month, casting doubt on the authenticity of the list.

Unraveling the Mystery of the Belgorod Crash

The Il-76, a military transport aircraft designed to airlift troops and equipment, crashed around 11 am near Yablonovo. The cause of the crash remains unclear, but Russian authorities have launched a military investigation into the incident.

Lawmaker Kartapolov revealed that the plane, originating from the Chkalovsky airbase near Moscow, was in the final stage of its flight to Belgorod. Interestingly, he mentioned that it was not escorted by fighter planes as the flight had been agreed upon with the Ukrainians.

A second Il-76, reportedly carrying more Ukrainian soldiers for the exchange, managed to turn around after the incident. This revelation adds another layer to the unfolding drama of the downed aircraft and the volatile situation at the Russia-Ukraine border.

Impact and Implications of the Tragic Event

The crash, if proven to be the result of hostile action, would mark the deadliest incident within Russia's internationally recognized borders since the conflict's inception nearly two years ago. Analysts and international observers have raised concerns over the inconsistencies in the Russian narrative, suggesting a complex and possibly convoluted backstory.

Ukraine's subsequent military statements, while not directly addressing the presence of POWs on the downed plane, hinted at a focused effort to monitor and reduce missile threats in the region. This response underscores the ongoing tension and strategic maneuvers on both sides of the conflict.

As the investigation continues, the global community awaits clarity on the true circumstances of this tragic event. The loss of life and the potential implications for the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine remain at the forefront of international concern.

  • Russian military transport plane crashes near Ukrainian border, killing all 74 onboard.
  • Conflicting claims arise from Russian and Ukrainian officials regarding the cause and purpose of the flight.
  • International calls for investigation into the crash amid ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
  • Evidence and statements from both sides raise questions about the true circumstances of the incident.
  • The crash potentially marks a significant escalation in the conflict within Russia's borders.


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