Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine: There were no Ukrainian prisoners on the Russian IL-76

Sofiia Telishevska, Kateryna Kobernyk

In an interview with Babel, the Secretary of the National Security Council Oleksiy Danilov stated that the IL-76 plane had indeed crashed in Russia, but, according to him, there were no Ukrainian prisoners of war on board. However, Ukraine does not have enough information whether the prisoners who were to be exchanged that day are still alive.

"Were our prisoners there, I can tell you for sure — no. I say this on the basis of the experience we had after Tehran and on the basis of what happened next. If this really happened, then there would be a lot of biological material, what is called, letʼs say, the dead, would be in a significant amount," Danilov emphasized.

In his opinion, the Russians would definitely take advantage of this situation and film it for a TV picture.

"There was no such thing there, they had this whole story prepared. And so letʼs wait, we just have to wait. If this were to happen, then, believe me, Lavrov would have rehearsed like this at the UN, and they would have shown all this. They have nothing to show, because if it happened in reality, it would be a completely different picture," said the secretary of the NSDC and added that in todayʼs world it is impossible to hide anything.

What happened to the Russian IL-76

On the morning of January 24, an Il-76 transport plane crashed in the Belgorod region of Russia. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated that it was shot down, and there were 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six crew members and three companions on board. The Russian authorities announced the disruption of the exchange of prisoners. The Russian Federation did not provide any evidence that there were prisoners on the plane.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine confirmed that the exchange was planned for January 24. They emphasized that Russia had warned in the past about the need for the security of Belgorodʼs airspace during exchanges, but was silent this time. Only five bodies were taken to the morgue in Belgorod, and Russian rescuers were not allowed to inspect the scene.

The commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces hinted that the statement of the Russians about the shooting down of their own prisoners of war by Ukraine is a discredit in order to reduce international support.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy instructed the military and special services to thoroughly understand the situation. Ukraine will insist on an international investigation of the event. The Security Service of Ukraine opened criminal proceedings.