Rescuers inspecting wreckages of the Ukrainian military Antonov An-26 plane after crashing outside of Chuhuiv town, Ukraine on Sept. 25, 2020. (Reuters photo)

(Reuters/NAN)

A military transport plane, carrying air force cadets, crashed and burst into flames near a highway in north-eastern Ukraine on Friday evening, killing at least 22 people on board, officials said.

The Antonov An-26 aircraft crashed while trying to land during a training exercise, the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Ruslan Khomchak, said in a statement.

Khomchak added that at least two more people were critically injured.

A video posted by Deputy Interior Minister, Anton Gerashchenko, on Facebook showed the plane in flames lying near a road and smoke billowing upwards in the night sky.

Pictures taken later showed rescue workers inspecting the wreckage near the town of Chuhuiv.

An investigation has started on what caused the crash.

One pilot reported failure in the left engine of the twin-engine plane, said Oleksiy Kucher, the governor of the Kharkiv region, according to Interfax Ukraine.

Kucher added that this would not have been a critical situation for an experienced pilot.

Citing preliminary information, Kucher said that some of the people on board managed to jump out of the plane when it was at low altitude.

An eyewitness cited by the Ukraine 24 news channel also said people had jumped out.

The crash happened around two kilometres (1.2 miles) from a military airport, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a statement.

It said 27 people had been on board the plane, revising that figure from an earlier estimate of 28.

The cadets were from the Kharkiv University of Air Force, which is run by the Defence Ministry.

“A state commission is being created to identify all the circumstances and causes of this disaster.

Search and rescue work continues on the spot,’’ President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said.

Zelenskiy will travel to the area on Saturday.