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Ukraine’s intelligence agency on Wednesday said it had no “reliable information” on who was on board a downed Russian military plane that Moscow says was transporting dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Moscow said 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers were killed when an IL-76 plane was shot down in its western Belgorod region, close to the border with Ukraine, ahead of a planned prisoner exchange between the two sides. “We currently do not have reliable or comprehensive information on who was on board the plane or in what number,” Ukraine’s main intelligence directorate said in a statement. It confirmed a “prisoner exchange was supposed to take place” on Wednesday. Without commenting on whether Ukrainian POWs were on board, the intelligence agency accused Moscow of endangering the lives of its captured soldiers. “Ukraine was not informed about the number of vehicles, routes and forms of delivery of prisoners,” it said. “It is known that prisoners are delivered by air, rail and road. This may indicate deliberate actions by Russia aimed at endangering the lives and safety of prisoners.” Ukrainian government agencies have issued a number of carefully-worded statements regarding the incident in the hours since the plane crashed on Wednesday morning. Kyiv also said Russia was responsible for ensuring the security of Ukrainian prisoners and that Moscow did not inform it about plans to transport any captured soldiers in the Belgorod region where the plane was shot down. “The Ukrainian side was not informed about the need to ensure the security of the airspace in the area around the city of Belgorod at a set time, as has been done many times in the past,” the intelligence directorate said. AFP could not independently verify the Russian claims but the incident would represent one of the single most deadly episodes of the full-scale conflict in weeks.

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