Last update - 13:19 12/10/2001
Russian airliner hit by an anti-aircraft missile, Ukraine admits
By The Associated Press
MOSCOW - The chief of the commission investigating the crash of a Russian airliner over the Black Sea last week said Friday that the aircraft had been hit by an anti-aircraft missile, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Tu-154 airliner went down on Oct. 4 after an explosion on board. All 78 people, most of them recent Russian immigrants to Israel, were killed. U.S. officials said the crash had been caused by an S-200 missile fired mistakenly by Ukrainian forces during military exercises on the Crimean Peninsula, which juts into the Black Sea.
Vladimir Rushailo, head of the investigatory commission, told reporters in the southern Russian city of Sochi that the plane had indeed been hit by a missile, Interfax reported.
"The Tu-154 flying from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk crashed because it was hit by the warhead of an anti-aircraft missile," Rushailo said, adding that investigators were continuing to examine fragments of the downed plane.
Pressure has been mounting on Ukraine's leadership to take responsibility for the crash. Ukrainian military officials have heatedly denied they were at fault, but Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said Thursday that Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk had submitted his resignation immediately after the tragedy. The resignation was rejected.
On Friday, for the first time, a Ukrainian official admitted that the plane may have been hit by Ukrainian fire. The reason for the crash could be an unintentional hit by an S-200 missile during the Ukrainian air defense exercises, Yevhen Marchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Security Council and another member of the commission of inquiry, told reporters.
-Will we ever know if it was really an accident?