Russia is preparing a response to Ukraine's Patriot attack on the Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, when all of the Russian crew and military personnel accompanying Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed.
The results of Russia's investigation into the crash of the Il-76 military transport plane in the Belgorod region that took place on January 24 say that it was hit by a Patriot air defence system.
Specialists found as many as 116 rocket fragments and rocket mechanisms on the crash site with corresponding markings on them. Traces of hexogen with impurities of up to ten percent octogen, which is typical for foreign-made explosives, were also found on the fragments, the Russian Investigative Committee reported.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine struck the aircraft from the village of Liptsy in the Kharkiv region. A source told TASS that the crew of the Patriot air defence system that attacked the Il-76 could have American military men. There were also versions about UK's and Poland's involvement.
This way or another, it was NATO military men that took part in the attack on the Russian military aircraft. The Ukrainians are not allowed to handle Patriot air defence systems – they can only press the button.
The conclusion of the Russian Investigative Committee found a confirmation in France. The Associated Press said citing a French military official that it was a mobile air defence system. The system activated the radar for a period of time that was enough to hit the target from a distance of about 50 kilometres.
Russian air defence systems specialist Alexey Leonkov believes that the data for the Patriot air defense system was received through the Western Link-16 system. According to him, Link-16 is a data exchange system that is used in the armies of the United States and NATO countries.
“The complex was not detected before the launch, since it did not emit probing signals,” Leonkov told RIA Novosti news agency.
On Sunday, February 4, journalist Dmitry Kiselyov (representing the official point of view of the Kremlin) said on the air of Rossiya-1 TV channel that Russia could strike a NATO military airfield in Rzeszow, Poland, in response to the Il-76 shoot-down.
“Let’s imagine a similar situation. A Russian officer launches a Russian missile from Mexico that shoots down an American military transport plane over US territory. What would be the reaction?” Kiselyov wondered.
According to him, it is only military-technical methods that could slow the Americans down.
“Poland's Rzeszow airfield, which is the main base for Western weapons to be shipped to Ukraine, is becoming an increasingly obvious target. But first, we still need to warn and explain everything to them very clearly. That’s what we’re doing,” the journalist noted.
Apparently, the Poles have received the message. On February 4, the Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces and the Polish Air Navigation Agency (PANSA) issued a warning to civil aircraft pilots about a possibility of increased activity of military aircraft in the eastern part of Polish airspace due to a “threat on the eastern border”.
“Unplanned military actions may occur to ensure state security,” the operational command said.
The navigation warning will be in effect from February 5 to May 5, 2024. The depth of the warning zone reaches several hundred kilometres. Civilian pilots are advised to "keep an eye on air-to-ground voice communications on appropriate communication channels and activate the radar transponder in Mode A, C and S."
Last summer, Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin said that he wouldn’t mind if “something suddenly explodes in Polish Rzeszow through which they ship weapons" to Ukraine.
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