The Il-76 crew sacrificed themselves not to let the aircraft crash onto the village of Yablonovo in Russia's Belgorod region. The pilots had about 40 seconds to eject, but they did not do this and directed the aircraft towards a field.
Local villagers said that they saw with their own eyes the aircraft going around their houses in the sky after it was hit with a Patriot missile.
The priest of a local church said that they would hold a service in memory of the crew.
Tellingly, Ukrainian media started editing reports about the shoot down of the Il-76 after it became known that the aircraft was carrying 65 captured Ukrainian military men. The order to edit the earlier published reports about the air crash allegedly came from the Office of the President of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's Defence Ministry refused to release any comments about the crash. To crown it all, administrators of many Ukrainian Telegram channels started shutting down comments to Il-76 messages.
The exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine was supposed to take place today, on January 24, in the Krasnoyaruzhsky district of the Belgorod region, which is a standard location for the procedure. The Ukrainian side was aware of it.
Ukraine was informed about the flight of the Il-76 in advance. Prisoners of the Armed Forces of Ukraine would always be flown to the region on board this particular Ilyushin Il-76 that the Ukrainian military shot down.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have already confirmed that they shot down the plane. Sixty-five POWs, six crew members and three accompanying persons were killed in the crash.
A Russian fighter with call sign Rassvet (Sunrise) destroyed an Abrams tank in the area of Avdiivka, the 15th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade said