Uncertainties persisted on Thursday surrounding the military plane crash that Russia claimed resulted in the deaths of numerous captured Ukrainian soldiers ahead of a planned prisoner exchange, with Moscow and Kyiv trading accusations at the UN Security Council.

Russia blamed Ukrainian forces for downing the IL-76 transport plane over the southern Belgorod region on Wednesday. It said that 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers were on board, as well as their escorts and the crew.

At an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Thursday evening, requested by Russia to discuss the downed plane, Moscow and Kyiv both sought to pin the blame on the other.

“All of the information that we have today shows that we are dealing with a premeditated, thought-through crime,” said Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, adding that Ukraine’s leaders “knew the route very well, knew about the way the soldiers were going to be transported to the place of exchange.”

He accused Kyiv of sacrificing its own troops “to Western geopolitical interests.”

Ukraine’s deputy ambassador Khrystyna Hayovyshyn rejected the accusation, saying that “Ukraine was not informed about the number of vehicles, roads and means of transportation of the captives.”

While Ukraine has not denied outright that it downed the plane, officials in Kyiv questioned key aspects of Russia’s narrative, such as whether Ukrainian servicemen were killed.

Ukraine’s military intelligence said that Moscow had not informed it in advance that the POWs would be transported by plane, as it had in the past.

Russia was “playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Wednesday, calling for an international investigation.

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP