Russian military transport plane crashes in flames on take off with 15 people aboard, Moscow says

A Russian military transport plane carrying 15 people has crashed on take off, the Russian Defence Ministry has said.

The ministry said the Il-76 aircraft with eight crew and seven passengers on board crashed in the Ivanovo region, roughly 435 miles from the border with Ukraine. It is unclear if there are any survivors, but the Ivanovo governor, Stanislav Voskresensky, offered condolences to the victims' families.

Unverified footage online shows the plane descending to the ground as a plume of black smoke trails behind it, while a fire can be seen around one of the engines. The ministry said an engine fire during takeoff was the likely cause of the crash. The Interfax news agency wrote that the plane crash occurred “during takeoff for a scheduled flight”.

Additional footage showed what appears to be a crash site, with smoke rising from behind a canopy of trees. A helicopter can be seen circling in the background. The Russian Defence Ministry said a team of investigators flew to Ivanovo to conduct a probe.

It is the second time this year that a Russian Il-76 military transport plane has crashed. Two months ago, another Il-76 crashed, with Moscow saying it was carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war (PoWs).

The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed at the time that all 74 people on board – including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war - were killed after the plane went down near the border with Ukraine.

Russia maintains that Ukraine shot down the plane. At the time, neither Ukrainian military intelligence nor Ukraine’s army confirmed that Ukraine had shot down the plane but accused the Russian army of having used military transport planes to deliver missiles to the Belgorod region in order to perform cross-border attacks in recent weeks – which they linked to Russian missile strikes on Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities, such as Kyiv.

Smoke rises from a crashed Russian military Il-76 transport plane outside Ivanovo, Russia (AP)
Smoke rises from a crashed Russian military Il-76 transport plane outside Ivanovo, Russia (AP)

“With this in mind, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue to take measures to destroy means of delivery and exercise airspace control to eliminate the terrorist threat, including in the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction,” the army said on Telegram. It added that Russia’s accusations could amount to “a planned action to destabilise the situation in Ukraine and weaken international support for our state”.

Regarding the latest crash, video posted on the Telegram messenger app by Baza, a channel linked to Russian security services, showed a large aircraft falling towards the ground and bursting into flames. State media outlet Shot issued a statement on Telegram suggesting that bodies had been discovered at the site of the crash today, which will likely be quickly cordoned off by Russian security services. There was no word on casualities from the Russian Defence Ministry.

Russian military blogger War Gonzo, one of the pre-eminent, Kremlin-approved war commentators, claimed that the plane had taken off from the Severny airfield in Ivanovo.

The airfield, roughly 430 miles from the border with Ukraine, was reportedly targeted by Ukrainian intelligence forces in May last year using drones ladened with explosives.

According to Russian security services, they had been intending to hit an A-50 reconnaissance warplane worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed to have prevented the attack.

The airfield has been known to accommodate multiple military transport and recon planes.

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian territory in recent months, as it faces a difficult time against Russian forces at multiple points across the 600-mile frontline. It has had success with strikes on Russian war ships in its Black Sea Fleet around occupied Crimea and attacks on infrastructure – particularly energy infrastructure in recent weeks – hundreds of miles into Russia.

On Tuesday, Ukraine pounded targets across the country, with at least 25 drones and nine rockets, in a sweeping attack that one Russian official said had triggered a fire at a major refinery.

A fire breaks out following a Ukrainian drone strike at an oil depot in Oryol, Orlovskaya oblast, Russia (via REUTERS)
A fire breaks out following a Ukrainian drone strike at an oil depot in Oryol, Orlovskaya oblast, Russia (via REUTERS)

Russian officials reported attacks on a slew of energy facilities, including a fire at Lukoil's NORSI refinery and a drone destroyed on the outskirts of the town of Kirishi. Gleb Nikitin, governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, posted a picture of the NORSI refinery and said emergency services were working to put out a fire there.

"A fuel and energy complex facility was attacked by unmanned aerial vehicles," Mr Nikitin said on Telegram. Russian Telegram channels said a crude distillation unit at the refinery had been damaged and was on fire.

The Baza Telegram channel said Lukoil’s Nizhny Novgorod refinery had also been hit, and showed pictures of a plume of black smoke rising into the air and a major fire.

Russia's Defence Ministry said it had downed 25 Ukrainian drones over Russian regions including Moscow, Leningrad, Belgorod, Kursk, Bryansk, Tula and Oryol.

Russia's defence ministry said Ukraine had fired eight RM-70 rockets and one Tochka-U missile at the Belgorod region, where some Russian war correspondents said there had also been an attempt by armed groups to cross into Russian territory.

Russia has faced sporadic incursions across its border from Ukraine-based armed groups purporting to be made up of Russians opposed to the Kremlin. Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told Ukraine’s 24 Channel the groups were conducting the operation on Russian territory independently of Ukraine. But Kyiv has never made clear how such groups have received advanced weapons and armoured vehicles.

The city administration building in Belgorod, Russia, which, according to local authorities, was damaged by a Ukrainian drone attack (via REUTERS)
The city administration building in Belgorod, Russia, which, according to local authorities, was damaged by a Ukrainian drone attack (via REUTERS)

Responsibility for the raids was claimed by at least two Ukraine-based armed groups - the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion.

Mr Yusov said a third group, the Russian Volunteer Corps, was also participating in the operation.

Russia claimed its forces prevented any incursions from Ukraine and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. The Russian Defence Ministry said Ukrainian "terrorist formations" backed by tanks and armoured combat vehicles tried to invade in three separate directions in Russia's Belgorod region in the early hours of the morning.

It said that four more attacks by Ukrainian "sabotage and reconnaissance groups" were repulsed around five hours later in Russia's Kursk region.

"We will take our land from the regime centimetre by centimetre," the Legion said in a Telegram post.

The incidents took place three days before the start of voting in a Russian presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is set to extend his rule by six more years.

In a reference to the vote, the Freedom of Russia Legion posted on social media: "The people will vote for whom they want, not for whom they have to. Russians will live freely."

Reuters contributed to this report