Russian military plane crashes near Ukraine border

By Rob Picheta, Antoinette Radford and Thom Poole, CNN

Updated 3:04 p.m. ET, January 24, 2024
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1:46 p.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Ukraine has addressed the plane crash, but has not taken responsibility for it. Here's the latest

From CNN Staff

Ukraine's military command has issued a carefully worded statement following the crash of a Russian military plane near the Ukrainian border, in which the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said Russian cargo weapons had been bringing weapons closer to the border recently.

In the statement, Ukraine said recent attacks on Kharkiv, which is about 30 kilometers from Russia, were being facilitated by the cargo planes bringing more weapons.

But, the Ukrainian General Staff statement stopped short of addressing Russian claims the crashed plane was carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war ahead of an exchange.  

If you're just catching up now, here's what to know:

  • About the crash site: The plane crashed about five to six kilometers from the village of Yablonovo in the Korocha District of Russia’s Belgorod Region, according to Russian state news agency TASS. Belgorod borders Ukraine to its southwest.
  • Some background on the region: The region of Belgorod has been increasingly drawn into Russia’s war on Ukraine, with an increasingly emboldened Kyiv launching cross-border strikes on its cities and towns in an effort to dent domestic support for Moscow’s invasion. Earlier this month, Russia was forced to evacuate residents from the region after a series of retaliatory strikes from Ukraine.
  • Air defenses active in the area: The Belgorod regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said air defense systems in the Belgorod region were active shortly before the crash of a Russian military transport plane Wednesday morning.
  • Russia's foreign minister speaks: Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, has accused Ukraine of targeting the plane with a missile. He said he has requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.
  • White House weighs in: The White House says it is trying to get more information about who, or what, was on board the Russian military plane. But, National Security Spokesperson John Kirby said they did not have more information yet.
  • Ukraine confirms exchange plans: Ukraine confirmed a prisoner swap was due to take place today, but said it was "not happening at the moment." Prisoner exchanges have taken place throughout the conflict, with the largest yet in early January.
12:33 p.m. ET, January 24, 2024

US is working to get clarity on Russia plane crash, White House says

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 24.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 24. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is aware of claims a Russian military plane crashed in Belgorod region carrying Ukrainian servicemen ahead of a prisoner exchange but had no further information to offer on Wednesday. 

“No, we don't,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby responded when asked if the United States had more info. “We've seen the reports but we're not in a position to confirm them.”  

Kirby said the administration was “obviously doing the best we can to try to get more clarity and more information on it.”

12:27 p.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Russia's foreign minister accuses Ukraine of targeting plane with missile

From CNN's Jessie Gretener

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference at the United Nations in New York on January 24.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference at the United Nations in New York on January 24. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Ukraine of targeting the plane that went down in the Belgorod region with a missile while addressing reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday. 

“The Ukrainian side launched an air defense missile from the Kharkiv region," Lavrov stated, adding that the "fatal strike" targeted the plane.

CNN is not able to independently verify Russia’s claims. 

Lavrov said he has also requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting at 3 p.m. ET today following the downing of the plane.

12:14 p.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Ukraine has commented on the plane crash, but doesn't take responsibility for shooting it down

From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukraine's military command says it regards Russian military aircraft approaching Belgorod as legitimate targets, but stopped short of acknowledging it fired at a Russian transport plane that crashed in the Belgorod region of Russia.

In a carefully worded statement, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said recent attacks on the city of Kharkiv, which lies just 30 kilometers from Russia, are being facilitated by Russian cargo planes bringing weapons close to the border.

“The recorded intensity of the shelling is directly related to the increase in the number of military transport aircraft that have recently been heading to the Belgorod airfield,” the statement said.

“With this in mind, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue to take measures to destroy delivery means and control the airspace to eliminate the terrorist threat, including on the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction.”

Tuesday morning saw one of the deadliest attacks on Kharkiv in weeks, with ten people killed in a missile attack on the city, according to emergency response officials.

The Ukrainian General Staff statement did not address Russian claims the crashed plane was carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war ahead of an exchange.  

11:58 a.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Belgorod governor says air defenses were active in the region shortly before military plane crash

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Katharina Krebs

Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov talks to the media in Belgorod, Russia, on June 2.
Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov talks to the media in Belgorod, Russia, on June 2. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images/File

Air defense systems in the Belgorod region were active shortly before the crash of a Russian military transport plane Wednesday morning, according to information from the region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.

On his Telegram channel, Gladkov wrote that a drone had been shot down over the village of Blizhnee, which lies about 60 kilometers southwest of Yablanovo, where the plane crashed. The governor’s post was published at 10:35 a.m. local time, about 40 minutes before Russia’s Defense Ministry says the plane crashed.

In another post, published at 11:12 a.m. local time, Gladkov reported an air attack alert was active, warning people to take shelter. About half an hour later, he said the alert was over.

The governor’s Telegram posts did not draw any connections between the air alert, the drone interception and the plane crash.

For months now, Belgorod has been targeted by Ukraine’s armed forces, mainly using drones, but also with other weapons types. Kyiv is yet to comment on Moscow’s claims Ukraine was responsible for the downing of the transport plane.

8:34 a.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Russian Defense Ministry blames Ukraine for downing plane in Belgorod region

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Radina Gigova

A screengrab taken from video posted to social media shows flames rising from the scene of a plane crash near Yablonovo, in Russia's Belgorod region, on Wednesday, January 24.
A screengrab taken from video posted to social media shows flames rising from the scene of a plane crash near Yablonovo, in Russia's Belgorod region, on Wednesday, January 24. Social Media/AP

Russia's defense ministry has blamed Ukraine for downing an Ilyushin-76 transport plane in the Belgorod region on Wednesday, saying Kyiv used an anti-aircraft missile system to down the plane. 

Kyiv has so far made no comment on Moscow’s claims, which Russian officials have been reporting since shortly after news of the crash broke.

The latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry says, "Today, at 11:15 a.m., the Kyiv regime committed a terrorist act as a result of which a Russian military transport aircraft was shot down, flying along the route Chkalovsky-Belgorod airfield to transport Ukrainian military personnel for exchange."

"The plane was destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the area of Liptsy, Kharkiv region, using an anti-aircraft missile system," the ministry said. "The radar equipment of the Russian Aerospace Forces observed the launch of two Ukrainian missiles."

CNN is not able to independently verify Russia’s claims. 

9:38 a.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Russia claims the flight was carrying prisoners of war, Ukraine claims it was missiles. Here's what we know

From CNN Staff

Russian media has reported that a military plane with 74 people on board has crashed in the Belgorod region of Russia, near the Ukrainian border. The region's governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said all those on board were killed.

But, there are conflicting reports about who or what was on board. Russian state media reported that 65 Ukrainian servicemen were on the plane, being flown to Belgorod ahead of a prisoner swap.

Ukraine says the IL-76 that crashed in Belgorod was carrying missiles for the S-300 air defense system, according to the official Ukrainian information service, quoting a source in the Ukrainian armed forces.

CNN has been unable to independently verify either claim. It has reached out to Ukraine for comment on allegations it shot down the plane.

If you're just joining us, here's what we know:

  • IL-76 plane: The plane that crashed – an IL-76 – is a Soviet-era, long-range freighter plane that has been in service since 1975, according to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation. It typically operates with a seven-person flight crew, and can carry around a 50-ton payload, according to the body. They're not designed as a passenger aircraft.
  • Yablonovo village: The plane crashed about five to six kilometers from the village of Yablonovo in the Korocha District of Russia’s Belgorod Region, according to Russian state news agency TASS. Belgorod borders Ukraine to its south-west.
  • Investigators on the scene: The Belgorod governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, has said a Russian investigative team and emergency services personnel are at the scene of the plane crash. "I changed my work schedule and went to the area. All details later," he said.
  • Ukraine investigating: The Ukrainian government agency that looks after prisoners of war says it is investigating claims a Russian military plane that crashed in Belgorod region was carrying Ukrainian servicemen ahead of a prisoner exchange. A statement provided no extra details, but warned that Russia was trying to destabilise Ukrainian society.
  • Ukraine confirms exchange plans: Ukraine has confirmed a prisoner swap was due to take place today, but said it was "not happening at the moment." Prisoner exchanges have taken place throughout the conflict, with the largest yet in early January.
  • Border region: The region of Belgorod has been increasingly drawn into Russia’s war on Ukraine, with an increasingly emboldened Kyiv launching cross-border strikes on its cities and towns in an effort to dent domestic support for Moscow’s invasion. Earlier this month, Russia was forced to evacuate residents from the region after a series of retaliatory strikes from Ukraine.
  • Video of crash: Geolocated video appears to show the final moments before the IL-76 crashed to the ground. The video, filmed in Yablonovo — about 40 kilometers (or about 25 miles) northeast of Belgorod — begins with the plane already in a steep fall. Just before it disappears behind a passing truck and trees, a part of it can be seen falling from the front of the fuselage, then a large large fireball and black smoke emerges from the point of impact.

7:54 a.m. ET, January 24, 2024

Ukraine confirms there were plans for a prisoner exchange today

From CNN's Victoria Butenko in Kyiv

Ukraine says a prisoner of war exchange with Russia had been due to take place today (Wednesday).

“It is not happening at the moment,” Andriy Yusov, from Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, told CNN.

Russia has said the crashed plane was carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war, but CNN has been unable to verify the claim.

Prisoner exchanges have taken place throughout the war, with the largest prisoner swap yet taking place in early January. More than 200 prisoners from each side were returned to their countries in February 2022.

6:42 a.m. ET, January 24, 2024

The Ukraine government is investigating Russia's claim that the plane was carrying Ukrainian POWs

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

The Ukrainian government agency that looks after prisoners of war says it is investigating claims a Russian military plane that crashed in Belgorod region was carrying Ukrainian servicemen ahead of a prisoner exchange.

A statement provided no further details but did warn Russia was “actively conducting information special operations against Ukraine aimed at destabilizing Ukrainian society.”

Russian news agencies, quoting Russia’s Defense Ministry, say 65 Ukrainian servicemen who were being flown to Belgorod ahead of a prisoner swap were on board the plane.

The official Ukrainian information service says the IL-76 that crashed was carrying missiles for the Russian S-300 air defense system, citing an unnamed source in the Ukrainian armed forces.