Kiev tried to use a prisoner exchange with Russia for a comprehensive intelligence operation, failed miserably and is also failing in blaming this tragedy on the Russians – we have the facts.
An exchange of prisoners of war had been agreed between Russia and Ukraine for January 24. It would have been the second prisoner of war exchange this year, after the largest exchange to date of 230 prisoners from both sides was successfully completed on January 3, 2024.
The exchange on January 3, 2024 was mediated by the United Arab Emirates and was carried out by land, on the border between Russia and Ukraine. There were therefore good reasons to assume that the exchange planned for January 24 could also be completed without disruption.
However, the exchange on January 24 was shot down by Ukraine.
The shooting down of a Russian transport plane
On January 24, 2024, at 11:10 a.m. local time, a Russian IL-76 transport plane was shot down not far from Belgorod.
Immediately afterwards, Ukrainian media stated that the downing had been carried out by Ukrainian air defenses.
Even the Ukrainian General Staff expressed this view. It celebrated the supposedly successful conclusion of an intelligence operation with this publication. The Ukrainian secret service claimed that the plane had been carrying weapons that Russia had transported from Iran to Russia via Egypt.
After Russian media published that only Ukrainian prisoners of war were on board the plane on their way to be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, the Ukrainian leadership was clearly dismayed. The reports on the Ukrainian Internet were immediately changed. It was now said that the plane had crashed or that Russian troops had inadvertently shot down the plane themselves.
Russia immediately puts its cards on the table
The Russian General Staff and the Russian parliament reacted within a few hours. A detailed list of the Ukrainian prisoners transported in the downed plane was published.
When Ukrainian identification documents were found at the site of the shooting, which confirmed the documents published by Russia up to that point, the situation became untenable for any explanations of the events published by the Ukrainian side to date.
Ukrainian background information
The available information suggests that Ukraine wanted to use the prisoner exchange for a large-scale PR campaign to pass a new law on mobilization, a practical total mobilization. The Ukrainian leadership is under pressure in this respect, as the planned mobilization law was rejected by parliament for revision at the beginning of January.
It wanted to force a change of mood by trying to exploit the coincidence of two events.
The aim was to exploit the repatriation of its own soldiers from Russian captivity for propaganda purposes and at the same time present the successful downing of a Russian aircraft with weapons from Iran as a successful intelligence operation.
The consequences for Kiev
It turned out differently. Due to this PR fiasco, Kiev had to postpone the declaration of general mobilization planned for 25 January 2024 indefinitely. Against the backdrop of the tragedy caused by Western air defense missiles, the planned PR strategy was no longer tenable even for Kiev.
Ukraine has shown itself to be a completely unreliable partner even for a prisoner exchange. In addition, it used a Western weapon system to shoot down a Russian transport plane that was being used to transport prisoners. In doing so, it not only exposed itself, but also its partners and arms suppliers, who repeatedly pointed out how responsibly Kiev was supposedly handling these weapons. A devastating signal to the world public.
President Putin informs
President Putin commented on the tragedy at a meeting in St. Petersburg on January 26. He said that the Ukrainian headquarters had been informed that there had been Ukrainian prisoners of war on board the plane.
And further verbatim:
“And because they knew that, they shot down the plane.”PRESIDENT PUTIN, JANUARY 26, 2024
President Putin went on to say that evidence had been found at the site of the launch which suggested that the crash had been caused by a missile from a Western air defense system, either an American Patriot system or a French-made system.
President Putin also said that he had instructed the public prosecutor’s office to publish all available data on the incident in the next few days.
Russia is putting pressure on Kiev, the USA and NATO by quickly publishing the facts available to date.
The events of 24 January 2024 make it very difficult for Kiev to continue the discussion about total mobilization. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that arms deliveries from the West to Ukraine will be more strongly questioned in the West.