Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
© Sergei Supinsky / AFPUkrainian President Vladimir Zelensky at an event in Kiev, January 22, 2024.
Ukraine has used "measures of destruction" against Russian transport aircraft in Belgorod Region and will continue to do so, the General Staff in Kiev said on Wednesday after an IL-76 carrying Ukrainian prisoners was shot down.

The transport crashed at 11:15am local time in the Korochansky district, about 90 km (55 miles) from the border. Initial reports in Ukrainian media, since deleted, claimed that Ukrainian forces had shot it down because it had been carrying S-300 missiles.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, the Ukrainian General Staff accused Russia of "terror" attacks on Kharkov and said the "recorded intensity of shelling is directly related to the increase in the number of military transport aircraft that have been heading to Belgorod airport in recent times."

"In order to reduce the missile threat, the Armed Forces of Ukraine not only control the airspace, but also track in detail the rocket launch points and the logistics of their supply, especially with the use of military transport aviation," the General Staff said, adding that AFU will "continue to use measures of destruction of means of delivery and airspace control to eliminate the terrorist threat."

Kiev initially reported that the targeted IL-76 was transporting missiles for strikes on Kharkov

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the plane was transporting 65 Ukrainian POWs, who were scheduled to be exchanged later in the day at the Kolotilovka checkpoint. Ukraine was informed of the flight in advance, so the military in Kiev knew it was carrying POWs, the Russian military said. Another plane with 80 more prisoners turned around after the first transport was struck and landed safely.

Russian radars detected the launch of two missiles from the village of Liptsy in Ukraine's Kharkov Region. Six crew members and three Russian soldiers on board the IL-76 were killed along with the 65 Ukrainian captives.

"By committing this terrorist act, the Ukrainian leadership showed its true face, disregarding the lives of its citizens," the Russian military said.

This would not be the first time Ukraine has targeted its own POWs in Russian custody. In August 2022, Ukrainian artillery used US-supplied HIMARS launchers for a rocket strike on a penal colony in Yelenovka, in the Donetsk People's Republic. The facility housed almost 200 prisoners from the notorious neo-Nazi 'Azov' unit, who had surrendered in Mariupol several months prior. The missile strike killed 50 of them and wounded another 73. Russian authorities later revealed that the location was known to the Ukrainians because the government in Kiev had requested to have the prisoners moved there.