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Ukraine may get bodies of soldiers it killed in plane attack – Russian official

Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova has stated that all the necessary procedures are already in place from previous prisoner swaps

Russia is willing to hand over the remains of the Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Russian Il-76 transport plane downed back in January, according to Russian human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova.

The aircraft was shot down over Russia’s border region of Belgorod on January 24 while carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs to a prisoner exchange, accompanied by three Russian observers and six crew members. There were no survivors. At first, Ukraine claimed the kill, then argued the attack was legitimate since it was a military transport plane, and eventually called for an investigation into the matter.

All necessary postmortem examinations and expertise have been completed, Moskalkova told RIA Novosti news agency on Sunday. Her Ukrainian counterpart had told her that Kiev was ready to accept the remains when they spoke at the end of February, she added.

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File photo: A Patriot interceptor fragment found in the wreckage of the Russian Il-76 transport
US admits ‘Patriot’ role in POW plane downing – NYT

DNA tests carried out by the Russian Investigative Committee have confirmed the deaths of all people listed on the flight. While refusing to set any specific deadlines, the ombudswoman affirmed that “there is willingness on the Russian side” to return the bodies of Ukrainians, when asked whether there were any snags to the potential exchange.

Meanwhile analysis of the debris found that the Il-76 was shot down by two MIM-104A surface-to-air missiles, launched across the border by a Ukrainian Patriot battery located in the Kharkov region.

Last month, anonymous US officials told the New York Times that in private they have little doubt the US-made air defense system brought down the plane. However, the publication claimed that Ukraine may have killed its own POWs by accident while acting on “flawed intelligence.”

READ MORE: Americans likely part of crew that shot down Ukrainian POWs – TASS

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “one could assume that it was accidental,” but “it is a crime in any case,” calling for an international investigation into the incident.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed the use of a US-made system in the killing, accusing the administration of US President Joe Biden of making American citizens “complicit in the bloody tragedy.”

March 04, 2024 at 07:54AM

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