A Russian military aircraft, an Il-76, carrying 74 people, including reportedly 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, has crashed in the Belgorod region of Russia. The incident was reported by Russia's Defense Ministry, according to the Russian news agency Ria.
The Ukrainian POWs were allegedly being transported to Belgorod for a prisoner exchange, as stated by the Russian news agency Tass. The plane also carried six crew members and three additional personnel escorting the prisoners. The Belgorod region shares its border with Ukraine.
The Russian Air Force's investigation unit has been dispatched to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident, the Defense Ministry informed, as reported by Tass.
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, informed, according to news agency AFP, that the plane went down in the Korotchansky district, northeast of the city of Belgorod.
The Il-76 is a military transport aircraft designed to carry troops, goods, military equipment, and weapons. Typically, the aircraft is manned by a five-member crew and can accommodate up to 90 passengers, as noted by Reuters.
Recently, the Belgorod region has been subject to several attacks from Ukraine, with a missile attack just before the New Year claiming 25 lives.
Following these incidents, Russian authorities announced plans to evacuate children from Belgorod due to the threat of Ukrainian attacks.
However, there is no current information suggesting that the crash was caused by an attack.
As of now, the Ukrainian government has not commented on the incident, and there is no confirmation from the Ukrainian side that Ukrainian POWs were on board the military aircraft.