Ukraine asks Russia to return remains of Il-76 plane crash victims

The Ukrainian authorities have asked Russia to return the bodies of the Ukrainian prisoners of war that Russia’s Defence Ministry said were aboard the Russian military plane that crashed in southern Russia’s Belgorod region on 24 January, Ukrainian news outlet RBC reported on Thursday.

While no evidence that the POWs were on board the Ilyushin-76 transport plane has yet been produced by the Russian military, Moscow has so far refused to hand over the bodies.

Andriy Yusov of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence told RBC that the Ukrainian authorities were still demanding an international investigation into the downed aircraft. He said that the 65 Ukrainians who are thought to have died in the plane crash are still technically listed as prisoners of war.

Mystery still surrounds the downing of the plane, with both Moscow and Kyiv casting doubt on each other’s version of events. Russia’s Defence Ministry maintains that the aircraft was shot down by a Ukrainian missile and had been transporting Ukrainian prisoners of war to take part in a prisoner swap planned for later that day.

Ukraine’s military intelligence, meanwhile, continues to accuse Russia of deliberately putting Ukrainian soldiers’ lives at risk by transporting them in a military aircraft so close to the front line without alerting Kyiv.

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