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Pilots of crashed plane directed it away from populated areas, eyewitness says

Another resident of the settlement said she heard a bang before the crash

MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. The pilots of the IL-76 airplane directed it away from populated areas before it that crashed in Russia’s Belgorod Region, an eyewitness told TASS.

"The engine was on fire. It started to fall down abruptly, then fell behind the forest and exploded there. The explosion was very powerful. It was falling abruptly, and they [the pilots] went a little over there [to the side]. They took it farther away," said the person who lives in a settlement near the site of the crash.

Another resident of the settlement said she heard a bang before the crash.

"We heard a very strong bang and then we saw the plane going down. We came out after the bang and the plane was already falling," she shared.

On January 24, Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war for exchange. There were 74 people on board, including 65 captured Ukrainian troops. There are no survivors. The Russian Defense Ministry called what happened a terrorist act and said Kiev knew about the transportation of prisoners for the exchange, which was to take place at the Kolotilovka checkpoint. The ministry said Ukraine attacked the plane so Kiev could blame Moscow for taking the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.