Shutov suspended because of downed Il-76 plane near Luhansk - Koval
The chief of the main operational command of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Major-General Oleksandr Shutov, has not been dismissed, but suspended from office, as have a number of other servicemen, pending an investigation into the tragedy of the downed Il-76 plane in Luhansk, Acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval has said.
"The investigation into the tragedy that happened yesterday is now underway, and General Shutov, among others was suspended from office during the investigation," Koval said in an interview with TSN on Sunday, June 15.
He noted that the militants were planning not just to hit the plane, but to destroy it.
"Three aircraft were in the sky that night. The terrorists deliberately fired at the second plane. I say so, because they two missiles were launched, and this plane, even if the missiles hit its engines, could have made an emergency landing at the airport. After two missiles hit the plane, they also opened fire with a 12.7 large-caliber machine gun. The explosion occurred on the wings of the plane, where the jet fuel was, and the plane fell to the ground," Koval said.
He said that the military leadership was aware of the fact that terrorists could have been around Luhansk airport and this area had been secured in advance.
"The plane was at a fairly high altitude… The incident [firing] occurred at a distance of 7-8 kilometers from the airport, where in fact it was impossible to control this situation [the presence of militants]," Koval said.
He denied that military commanders allegedly knew about the militants' plans to open fire on the Il-76.
Koval also said that the group of attackers had been using a SUV.
As reported, an Il-76 military transport plane of the Ukrainian Air Force was shot down with an anti-aircraft missile complex early on June 14 when it attempted to land at the Luhansk airport. There were 40 Ukrainian servicemen and nine crewmembers on board. All were killed.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared June 15 a day of mourning in Ukraine.
The leader of the self-proclaimed "Luhansk People's Republic," Valeriy Bolotov, said that the plane had been shot down by representatives of this organization.