Russian plane
The downed plane was reportedly an Ilyushin IL-76. Image/AFP / Fadel SENNA

A Russian military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) crashed in Russia's Belgorod region, near Ukraine.

According to Russia's Defence Ministry, as many as 65 Ukrainian prisoners, along with six crew members and three Russian soldiers, were onboard the plane when it crashed on Wednesday. The prisoners were being flown to Ukraine for a prisoner exchange, the Russian authorities have claimed.

A video of the crash shows the plane rapidly losing altitude and heading straight towards the ground before crashing near the village of Yablonovo in the Belgorod region.

"At around 11 am Moscow time (0800 GMT), an IL-76 aircraft crashed in the Belgorod region during a routine flight," AFP reported, quoting Moscow's defence ministry. "On board were 65 captured Ukrainian army servicemen being transported to the Belgorod region for exchange, six crew members, and three escorts," it said.

The Russian IL-76 was designed to transport troops, military equipment and cargo. The aircraft, manufactured by Ilyushin, was inducted into service in the 1970s.

Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov has said that everyone onboard the aircraft was killed.

Meanwhile, Russia has accused Kyiv of shooting down the military transport plane, calling it a barbaric act of terrorism. The Russian defence ministry said that its radar operators had even detected the launch of two Ukrainian missiles when the plane crashed.

"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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, added that Russia wants to find out "the reasons behind the Ukrainian criminal act".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also demanded an international inquiry into the crash. Ukraine has accused Russia of "playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners".

"It is obvious that the Russians are playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners, with the feelings of their relatives and with the emotions of our society," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address on Wednesday.

But he neither confirmed nor denied Russia's accusations and added: "We need to establish all the clear facts. As much as possible, given that the downing of the plane occurred on Russian territory, which is beyond our control." Zelensky has also demanded an international inquiry.

Ukraine's GUR military intelligence agency added that a prisoner swap was to take place, but it was not informed of how the POWs would be handed over to them. It further stated that Ukraine was not even asked to ensure airspace security around Belgorod, unlike on previous occasions, according to a Reuters report. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet commented on the incident.

The latest incident comes days after a Moscow-bound Russian chartered flight carrying six people crashed in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan.

But it was not a military plane; it was a chartered ambulance flight from India via Uzbekistan to Zhukovsky International Airport in Moscow.

Two passengers, along with four crew members, were on board when the incident occurred. It took place overnight in a remote mountainous region near the Zebak district of the province. The passengers were Russians, including a seriously ill person and their spouse.

The plane, a French-made Dassault Falcon 10 jet made in 1978, was owned by Athletic Group LLC and a private individual.

According to Russian news agency SHOT, the pilot had warned that the plane was running low on fuel before it disappeared from the radar. He had also reportedly stated that the plane would try to land in Tajikistan. According to local media reports, four people, including the pilot, have survived the crash.