Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken for the first time about the crash of the IL-76 military aircraft in the Belgorod region, which carried captured Ukrainian Armed Forces (VSU) soldiers. He detailed the incident and labeled it a crime.
Putin noted that Ukrainian authorities were aware of the transportation of 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
"The Main Intelligence Directorate knew we were transporting military personnel, 65 in total, with plans for about 190. Knowing this, they struck the plane," Putin said according to Lenta.ru.
"I don't know if it was intentional"
The IL-76 military aircraft was targeted by a French or US air defense system. According to Putin, two missiles were launched from Kiev-controlled territory at 11:10 Moscow time. The IL-76 was hit within two to three minutes. Putin admitted that the response was virtually impossible.
Putin suggested that VSU might have mistakenly launched a missile and shot down the IL-76.
"I don't know if it was intentional, a mistake, or a lack of thought. But it's clear that they did it," Putin stated. The missile remnants recovered from the crash site indicated it was an air defense missile.
Putin speculated that the missile might have been fired from either an American Patriot missile system or a European air defense system, likely French. The exact nature of the missile will be known within two to three days.
Putin rejected the friendly fire theory, explaining that Russian air defense systems recognize RF signals and have a "friend or foe" system, technically impossible to bypass.
Putin Promises to Publish IL-76 Crash Investigation Results
Putin promised to report the investigation findings of the military plane crash and extended condolences to the families of the IL-76 crew who did not survive. He instructed the Russian Investigative Committee to "maximally publicize the details of the catastrophe."
The Investigative Committee previously identified the location from where the missile was allegedly launched on January 24, downing the IL-76 with six crew members, military police, and over 60 Ukrainian prisoners. The launch point was reportedly in the village of Liptsy, Kharkov region.
The black boxes retrieved from the crash site, in good condition and suitable for decoding, will aid investigators in establishing the IL-76 crash circumstances.
Ukraine has so far completely denied any involvement in shooting down the aircraft. Ukrainian President Zelensky has called for an international investigation.