Russia claims Ukraine downed plane with war prisoners using US-made Patriot missile

Russia claims Ukraine downed plane with war prisoners using US-made Patriot missile

Investigative Committee says Ukrainian armed forces fired 2 Patriot missiles from Kharkiv region to shoot down Il-76 plane in January

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) - Russia on Tuesday claimed that the Il-76 plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners, was downed in January by Ukraine's armed forces using a US Patriot missile system.

Fragments of shells and mechanisms marked Patriot were found at the crash site, while a striking element of the missile was discovered in the body of one of the victims, said Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee.

"The results of comprehensive explosive examinations have confirmed that the fragments found are parts of two anti-aircraft guided missiles from the American Patriot system," she said.

Analysis of surveillance camera footage revealed that two missiles were fired at the plane; the first struck the aircraft at an altitude of about 4,000 meters, while the second failed to reach its target and self-destructed, the spokeswoman said.

The missiles were launched by a single Patriot complex located in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, as confirmed by radar reconnaissance data, she added.

"The Investigative Committee has identified the specific units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces equipped with Patriot missile systems. Russian investigators are now working to identify the individuals responsible for organizing the attack on the plane," Petrenko said.

At the time of the attack, the Il-76 was in technically sound condition, with all aircraft systems functioning normally, as confirmed by the flight recorder data, she asserted.

The Russian Air Force Il-76 military transport plane was shot down on Jan. 24 near the Ukrainian border in Russia's Korochansky district in the Belgorod region, killing all on board -- 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six crew members and three guards.

Moscow had blamed Kyiv for the attack earlier as well, saying the prisoners were en route for an exchange. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not explicitly take responsibility for the incident, but described the plane as a "legitimate military target," arguing that it was carrying S-300 anti-aircraft missiles "for bombing the Kharkiv region."

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