Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 shoot-down
Ilyushin Il-76MD (76777) seen at Kubalkino (Mykolaiv) one month prior to being shot down
|Date||14 June 2014|
|Site||Near Luhansk International Airport, Luhansk, Ukraine
|Aircraft type||Ilyushin Il-76MD|
|Operator||Ukrainian Air Force|
|Destination||Luhansk International Airport|
On 14 June 2014, an Ilyushin Il-76MD of the Ukrainian Air Force was shot down by forces of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic during the Ukrainian anti-insurgent operation against the unrecognized Lugansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic, in its eastern Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The aircraft was on approach to land at Luhansk International Airport, and was carrying troops and equipment from an undisclosed location. All 49 people on board died.
Originally operated by Aeroflot as CCCP-76777, the aircraft had subsequently served with the Ukrainian Air Force, Azov-Azia Aircompany and Avilond TAC as UR-76777 before serving with Payam Air as EP-TPY. A planned acquisition by the ATI Aircompany did not go ahead, and the aircraft was reacquired by the Ukrainian Air Force.
The aircraft was carrying military equipment and 40 troops, as well as a crew of nine. It was coming in to land at Luhansk International Airport, Luhansk when it came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, a heavy machine gun had been used to fire upon the aircraft. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office, the aircraft was brought down by MANPADS equipment. It subsequently crashed at 00:51 local time (21:51 on 13 June, UTC); all 49 people on board died. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence blamed "terrorists" for the loss of the aircraft and troops. The aircraft was reported to have been carrying 40 paratroopers of the 25th Separate Dnipropetrovsk Airborne Brigade in addition to its crew.
A military analyst based in Kiev reported that two empty launch tubes for Igla missiles had been found near the Lugansk airport. Vladimir Inogorodsky, spokesman of the Donetsk People's Republic, confirmed that Igla missiles had been used. Separatists had said a week prior to the downing of the plane that they would not allow any more flights into the airport.
The incident was the worst loss suffered by the Ukrainian military in a single event since the pro-Russian conflict began in February 2014. It was also the fourth deadliest involving the Il-76 and the tenth deadliest aircrash in the Ukraine.
According to a Russian source, on 17 June the head of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) Valeriy Bolotov announced that investigators from the LPR were able to find neither armaments nor the body parts of soldiers at the crash site. Bolotov hypothesized that the plane was empty and was intended to transport the bodies of soldiers killed in action, while reaffirming that rebels had shot down the plane.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko threatened separatists with an "adequate response" and declared 15 June a day of national mourning. In a televised emergency meeting, Poroshenko scolded the head of the country's SBU security service for "omissions" in protecting the aircraft. He called for "a detailed analysis of the reasons" for the failure and indicated that personnel changes may be instituted. The acting defense minister of Ukraine Michael Koval announced that the decision has been made to relieve the chief of staff of the Ukrainian military of his duties for the period of the investigation into the incident.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk remarked, "They lost their lives because they defended men and women, children and the elderly". He also said: "First, we will commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil".
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