Russia agrees to return bodies of Il-76 plane crash victims to Ukraine

Russia is ready to return the bodies of the Ukrainian victims of the Il-76 plane crash to Kyiv, Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova told state news agency RIA Novosti on Friday.

Moskalkova said that Ukrainian officials had contacted her to request the return of the bodies of the 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were reportedly aboard the Russian military aircraft that crashed on 24 January and that “everything necessary” for their return was in place.

Moskalkova also said that Russia had “confirmations and DNA samples” which would allow for the identification of the bodies.

Russia’s Defence Ministry blamed the Armed Forces of Ukraine for downing the Il-76 transport plane over Russia’s Belgorod region in January, which it said had been transporting 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war for a pre-arranged exchange later the same day. It said that all 74 people on board, including the 65 Ukrainian POWs, were killed in the crash.

Ukraine confirmed that a prisoner exchange had been due to take place on the day of the crash, but has never confirmed or denied that its forces were responsible for shooting down the plane.

Ukraine’s National Security Secretary Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian media in February that he believed the POWs hadn’t been on board the downed Il-76, noting the absence of bodies at the crash site.

Kyiv has not yet commented on Moskalkova’s remarks.

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