Kremlin 'faked' deaths of 65 POWs in plane inferno, Ukraine claims as it emerges emergency services were banned from attending crash site

Friday, January 26, 2024
 – Ukrainian officials have dismissed Kremlin claims that 65 prisoners of war died when a Russian transport plane was shot down.

They accused Russia of inventing the story of the tragedy as a propaganda stunt. They believe the aircraft was empty when it was shot down.

Mail Online reports that Western security officials have shared the Ukrainians' suspicions over who was or was not, aboard the aircraft. One aspect of Moscow's account which appears to be bogus surrounds the publication of so-called passenger manifests.

Suspicion also surrounded the content of video footage taken of the crash site in western Russia, which showed a small amount of human remains.

Within hours of Wednesday's crash, Russian media outlets shared lists of who was supposedly aboard the aircraft when it was shot down. But Ukraine said some of those listed had been repatriated as part of previous POW exchanges.

The Kremlin claims more than 70 people were travelling in the Ilyushin II-76 aircraft – the POWs and the crew members.

But a video released by Russia's Investigative Committee showed a block of twisted metal and wires and some human remains from either one or two people. No other human remains were shown.

Ukrainian human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets said: 'We found Ukrainian citizens on the list who have already been exchanged.

'Also, if there were photographs and videos of our POWs (at the crash site) Russia would already have posted it.

'There are not any signs that there were such a large number of people on the plane.'

Lubinets added he was 'very surprised' how quickly Russia reacted publicly to the crash.

He has called for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to be allowed to inspect the crash site.

The ICRC did not respond to Kyiv's request, but it described the reports of the crash as 'worrisome' in a statement to the AFP news agency.

'We will not make any comments or speculations at this stage until facts are established,' it said.

The Mail has also been told the Ilyushin II-76 aircraft had been used to deliver Iranian missiles.

Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Yusov said Russian emergency workers were forbidden to inspect the crash site near Yablonovo.

Only five bodies were recovered from the wreckage. The remains of the pilot and crew members were taken to a nearby morgue, he said.Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded an independent investigation into the incident. 

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