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May 19, 2024

Ukraine Accuses Russia of ‘Playing with Lives’ After Military Plane Carrying POWs Crashes

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Jan 25, 2024

A Russian military plane carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war crashed near the Russia-Ukraine border on January 24th, 2023, killing all 74 people on board. The incident has sparked an international controversy, with Russia and Ukraine trading accusations over who is responsible.

The Crash

The Russian Defense Ministry said an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane crashed while trying to land at Belgorod International Airport in western Russia, less than 20 miles from the border with Ukraine. All 65 Ukrainian POWs and 9 crew members were killed.

Russia claims Ukraine gave prior notification that the flight would be carrying prisoners of war from the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014. Ukraine has denied this, saying it was not notified of the flight plan.

Wreckage and human remains were scattered over a wide area, indicating the plane broke up at high altitude. Both flight recorders have been recovered from the debris.

Accusations and Investigations

Russia accused Ukraine of shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air missile, calling it a “bloody provocation” aimed at sabotaging peace talks between the two sides.

Ukraine vehemently denied this, instead alleging that Russia removed important passengers before deliberately crashing the plane in a “terror attack.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy slammed Russia for “playing with the lives of prisoners of war” and demanded an international investigation.

The United Nations Security Council has called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Both sides have opened criminal probes, further raising tensions. Independent aviation experts say the crash investigation could take many months due to the animosity between Russia and Ukraine.

“This tragedy has become a political football,” said John Warden, an airline safety consultant. “The truth of what happened may get lost amidst all the accusations being thrown around.”

Prisoner Exchange Talks Now in Limbo

The plane crash has also endangered ongoing negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv on exchanging prisoners captured during 10 months of warfare. The two sides were thought to be close to agreeing numbers and details for a major prisoner swap.

“This incident has unfortunately poured cold water on the prisoner exchange talks,” said Olga Tokariuk, head of the Kyiv Independent news outlet. “It will seriously undermine trust in any good faith measures between Russia and Ukraine.”

With dozens of prisoners now dead and talks stalled, prospects for family reunifications have been dramatically reduced. Both governments face domestic pressure to advance their citizens’ interests amidst the tragedy.

“Frankly, the crash makes prisoner exchanges much more complicated politically even if a deal is still possible,” said Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov.

Context: The War in Ukraine

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in what it calls a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine. Western governments widely condemn it as an imperial war of conquest.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands on both sides and displaced 14 million Ukrainians. Russia currently occupies around 18% of Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.

Peace talks have sputtered for months, with Ukraine opposed to ceding land to Russia and Russia determined to retain control over areas its forces occupy.

Prisoner exchanges have represented a rare area of cooperation between the warring parties. In September 2022, Russia freed 215 Ukrainian POWs while Ukraine turned over 55 Russian prisoners plus pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

Both sides were hoping to build on this with another major swap in the coming months, but negotiations have now stalled.

What Happens Next?

In the wake of the deadly crash, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated to levels not seen since last spring. The prospects for prisoner exchanges and peace talks are now murky at best.

If Russia and Ukraine cannot agree on the facts and responsibility for the incident, it may irreparably damage relations and eliminate near-term hopes for conflict resolution.

Independent crash investigations will be crucial but are unlikely to bridge the divide between Moscow and Kyiv’s contradictory narratives. Their findings may end up entrenching both sides’ positions rather than bringing clarity.

Ultimately, the plane tragedy has made a diplomatic settlement even more elusive. Russian President Vladimir Putin shows no signs of backing down from his war aims while Ukraine remains fiercely resistant to territorial concessions. This crash now risks re-freezing negotiations that were already on thin ice.

Summary Timeline

Date Event
February 24, 2022 Russia invades Ukraine, starting the war
September 2022 Major POW exchange between Russia and Ukraine
January 24, 2023 Russian military plane crashes near Ukraine border, killing 74
January 25, 2023 Russia and Ukraine trade accusations; investigations begin
Future Further peace talks and prisoner exchanges now in doubt
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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