President ZELENSKY slams VLADIMIR PUTIN for 'playing with prisoners' lives' after plane carrying 65 POWs crashed in huge fireball

Thursday, January 25, 2024
 – President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Vladimir Putin of 'playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners' after a Russian military transport plane carrying 65 prisoners of war exploded into a massive fireball.

The Ilyushin Il-76 plunged from the sky and smashed into the ground in front of horrified locals in the Belgorod region near Ukraine's border yesterday.

Russia said that the 65 POWs, six Russian crew, and three escorts on board were all killed in the deadly plane crash. Shortly after the tragedy, both Russia and Ukraine quickly pinned the blame on one another.

Without providing evidence Moscow accused Ukraine of killing its own POWs, while Kyiv demanded an international inquiry and called for full clarification of the circumstances of the incident.

President Zelensky, in his evening address, said: 'It is clear that the Russians are playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners, the feelings of their loved ones, and the emotions of our society.'

Mr. Zelensky, who has since cancelled a planned regional trip linked to his birthday today, demanded 'all clear facts must be established'.

The Russian defence ministry said six Russian crew members and three Russian soldiers had been on the Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane shot down.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Belgorod region, said all 74 people onboard had been killed in the crash.

After a long pause, the Ukrainian military said it would continue to destroy Russian military transport aircraft it believed were carrying missiles with which to strike Ukraine.

It said it had noticed more Russian military transport aircraft landing in Belgorod, something it linked to Russian missile strikes on Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk accused Russia of trying to undermine international support for Ukraine.

'Ukraine has the right to defend itself and destroy the means of the aggressors' aerial attack,' he said.

He said investigations would reveal whether the missiles were the US-made Patriots or German IRIS-Ts.

The Russian defence ministry said the exchange was to have taken place on Wednesday afternoon at the Kolotilovka border checkpoint and Ukraine knew a transport plane carrying captured Ukrainian soldiers was expected at the Belgorod airfield.

'By committing this terrorist act, the Ukrainian leadership has showed its true face. It disregarded the lives of its own citizens,' the ministry said in a statement.

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