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44 killed in Russian plane crash

A passenger jet has crashed on a motorway in north-western Russia, killing 44 people, officials said. Eight people survived the crash.

The Tu-134 plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, crash-landed en route from Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk, Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Semyonova said.

The ministry said in a website statement that 44 people were killed. Eight people who survived the crash, including a 10-year-old boy, are in hospital in a critical condition in Petrozavodsk.

There was no immediate explanation for the crash, but the Interfax news agency quoted the airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky as saying there were "unfavourable weather conditions".

Ms Semyonova said the plane crashed on its final approach to the airport in Petrozavodsk, landing about a mile short of the runway. It was unclear if the plane had attempted to land on the road, or just happened to fall there, she said. Petrozavodsk is in Karelia province, near the Finnish border, about 400 miles north-west of Moscow.

The plane was carrying 52 people, nine of whom were crew members, Ms Semyonova said. Russian news agencies said Russian Premier League soccer referee Vladimir Pettay and a Swedish citizen were among the victims.

The black box flight data recorders have been recovered, news agencies said.

The crash occurred on the eve of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's planned appearance at the Paris Air Show to support dozens of Russian firms seeking sales contracts.

Russia and the other former Soviet republics have some of the world's worst air traffic safety records, according to the International Air Transport Association. Experts blame weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality for the poor safety record, leading to emergency landings being reported with alarming regularity.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was among 96 people killed when his Tu-154 crashed in heavy fog while trying to land near the western city of Smolensk in April 2010. In 2006, three crashes - two in Russia and one in Ukraine - killed more than 400 people.


From Belfast Telegraph