Russia announces willingness to repatriate remains of Ukraine victims of January plane crash

Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova told Russian state news outlet RIA Friday that Russia is prepared to repatriate the remains of the Ukrainian victims of the II76 plane crash in January.

Moskalkova told RIA that everything administratively necessary for the repatriation is in place and that she is in contact with Ukrainian authorities about the possible transfer of remains. Moskalkova also confirmed that if a transfer were to take place, it would be done under existing procedures for repatriating remains.

The II-76 plane crash occurred in late January when a plane carrying 65 Ukrainian military personnel for what Russia alleged was a “pre-agreed exchange” of prisoners of war was allegedly struck by an anti-aircraft missile and crashed. Russia has claimed that Ukraine intentionally targeted the plane with anti-aircraft missiles from the area of Liptsy in the Kharkiv region. Russia alleged that the incident killed 74, including six crew members and three Russian officers.

However, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets claimed that Russia may be exaggerating the number of victims, stating, “Currently, there are no signs of the fact that there were so many people on the Il-76 plane, be they citizens of Ukraine or not.” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also disputed Russia’s account of the crash, stating, “It is obvious that the Russians are messing with the lives of Ukrainian captives, the feelings of their relatives, and the emotions of our society.”

Moskalkova’s statements come just after the second anniversary of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Germany held the War Crimes Conference 2024 a day before the anniversary, with Ukraine announcing at the conference that it is currently investigating over 120,000 alleged Russian war crimes. Multiple countries also announced new sanctions as the anniversary approached, including the US, UK and EU. President Zelensky also announced on the anniversary that over 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed thus far in the conflict.

There are currently multiple ongoing war crimes, genocide and human rights investigations in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. In February, Amnesty International claimed that 33 Ukrainian soldiers have been found guilty of war crimes in the Supreme Court of the Luhansk People’s Republic in Russian-occupied Luhansk in proceedings it called “unlawful.” Ukraine brought a genocide complaint against Russia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), with the court ruling in early February that it had jurisdiction to determine some aspects of a case. However, the ICJ also largely rejected claims by Ukraine that Russia financed terrorism and discriminated against Ukrainians.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) also has an ongoing investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, with assistance from the US. In 2023, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Putin administration’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, for their role in the alleged forced deportation of Ukrainian children. In response, Russia indicted the ICC Prosecutor Khan Karim Asad Ahmad and Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of war crimes, including the use of cluster munitions in civilian areas and the use of chemical weapons.