Russian sources say the Ilyushin plane crashed in a Russian-Ukrainian border region.
A Russian military transport plane carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six crew and three other people crashed on Wednesday morning, Russia’s Defence Ministry has said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred around 11 a.m. local time in Russia’s Belgorod region near Ukraine.
It was also not known if anyone survived.
The crashed aircraft was an Ilyushin-76 plane, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.
Emergency services were called to the scene of the disaster.
Russian authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, and a special military commission was on the way to the crash site, said the Defence Ministry.
The Ukrainian POWs were being “moved to the Belgorod Region for an exchange, and three escorts on board,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
The local governor in the Belogorod region, which lies near the Ukrainian border in western Russia’s west, wrote on Telegram the incident occurred in the Korocha district.
The attack comes against a backdrop of Russian strikes
Earlier Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a major Russian missile attack that was devised to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences had killed 18 people and injured 130.
The barrage employing more than 40 ballistic, cruise, anti-aircraft and guided missiles early Tuesday hit 130 residential buildings in three Ukrainian cities, “all ordinary houses,” Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.
Russia’s onslaught, which included targets in the capital Kyiv and second-largest city Kharkiv, was the heaviest in weeks. It lent weight to Zelenskyy’s appeals for Western allies to provide more military aid.
“This year, the main priority is to strengthen air defence to protect our cities and towns, as well as defend frontline positions,” Zelenskyy said on X late Tuesday.
With the ice-bound 1,500km front line largely static as both sides seek to replenish their weapons stockpiles, the war has increasingly revolved around long-range strikes.
Analysts say Russia stockpiled missiles to pursue a winter campaign of aerial bombardment, while Ukraine has sought to strike inside Russia with new types of drones.
Russia may have employed decoy missiles in Tuesday’s attack in an effort to open up holes in Ukraine’s air defences, a US think tank said.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Moscow is likely trying to acquire more ballistic missiles from foreign countries, including Iran and North Korea, because they may be more effective in some circumstances.
Russia denies its forces strike civilian areas, although there is substantial evidence to the contrary.
Ukraine’s allies have promised to keep sending military aid packages, even though their resources are stretched. Help from the United States, by far Ukraine’s single biggest provider, has also hit political snags.
The German defence ministry announced Wednesday that it plans to send six SEA KING Mk41 multi-role helicopters from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the war military deliveries from Germany have amounted to around €6 billion, including substantial anti-aircraft and air defence systems, the government said.