Pro-Russian militants shot down a Ukrainian military transport airplane on Saturday killing all 49 people on board.
The separatists used a shoulder-fired missile to blow up the Il-76 airplane while it was landing at the Ukrainian city of Luhansk, reports The New York Times. “On approach to the Luhansk airport a Ukrainian armed forces military transport Il-76 airplane was shot down with an antiaircraft rocket system,” the prosecutor general’s office military wing said in a statement.
“In addition to the nine crew members, 40 paratroopers were on board. All of them died.” The statement also decried the attack as terrorism. The town is currently controlled by militants, but Ukraine has managed to keep control of the airport.
The Ministry of Defense said that the 40 paratroopers, along with equipment and food, were being transported into eastern Ukraine, as the country continues to deal with pro-Russia separatists, who appear to be receiving military equipment from Russia.
The U.S. State Department confirmed on Friday that the militants were recently given three T-64 tanks and BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers. The tank models are no longer currently used by the Russian military.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf called the move “unacceptable,” and added, “A failure by Russia to de-escalate this situation will lead to additional costs.”
Russia complained on Friday to Ukraine through a note of protest alleging that forces crossed the Russia border into the country, which the Russian Foreign Ministry called a “gross violation of fundamental rules of international law.”
The Ukrainian forces were chased out, but not before they were able to reclaim the separatist-held port city of Mariupol.