A military IL-76 aircraft crashed in the Korochansky District of Belgorod Oblast on January 24. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that it was transporting Ukrainian prisoners of war, all of whom perished. The Ministry specified that six crew members and three individuals accompanying the prisoners also did not survive the crash.
The crash occurred near the Yablonovo settlement in the Korochansky District of Belgorod Oblast on January 24. The Russian Ministry of Defense revealed that the aircraft was carrying 65 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces who had been captured and were intended for exchange with Russian soldiers. All individuals on board, including six crew members and three accompanying individuals, lost their lives in the crash, as confirmed by Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.
The pro-government Telegram channel SHOT, citing a source, reported that the exchange of captives was scheduled to take place at the Belgorod Oblast border on January 24, following the '192 for 192' scheme. Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the State Duma Defense Committee, alleged that Ukrainian authorities were aware of the planned exchange and deliberately brought down the aircraft with missiles. He mentioned that the program for exchanging war prisoners might be temporarily suspended. The Russian Ministry of Defense also accused Ukraine of shooting down the plane.
Margarita Simonyan, the head of the state-controlled RT media, released a list claiming to contain the names of 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who perished in the IL-76 crash. The media outlet 'iStories' found that at least 12 names on the list match the data published in late December by a Ukrainian Telegram channel dedicated to searching for missing or captive individuals. However, another Telegram channel, 'Pepel' ('Ashes'), pointed out that some of the prisoners from Simonyan's list had already been exchanged on January 3.
Media outlets 'Ukrainska Pravda' and 'RBC-Ukraine,' citing sources, reported that the IL-76 aircraft was shot down by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to their account, the plane was said to be carrying missiles for S-300 systems destined to target Kharkiv. However, Ukrainian media removed the previously published information after the Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine stated that the Russians had not provided information about the routes or means of transporting the captives. Still, they confirmed that there was no prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine on January 24. The agency emphasized their lack of reliable information regarding the identities or number of people aboard the IL-76.
Ukrainian OSINT analyst, operating under the alias 'Skrinka Pandory' ('Pandora’s Box'), believes that the plane was moving away from the Ukrainian border, not towards it. According to his data, flight RA-78830 was passing through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea, and Iran. It disappeared from radars near Syria and reappeared above Belgorod. The analyst assumed that it could have been transporting weapons from Eastern countries.