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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 00:28 GMT 01:28 UK
Russia mourns plane crash victims
Relatives of the victims
Relatives have travelled to the scene
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has declared Thursday a national day of mourning after the crash of a Russian airliner in which 145 people were killed.


I am deeply shaken ... The whole country shares this grief

Vladimir Putin
Distraught relatives have travelled to the scene of the accident where investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the country's worst civil air disaster in years.

The plane, a Tupolev-154, was en route to the far eastern city of Vladivostok when it crashed late on Tuesday near the Siberian city of Irkutsk after attempting to land for routine refuelling.

"I am deeply shaken ... The whole country shares this grief," President Putin said in a message of condolence to the bereaved families.

"This catastrophe has broken the destinies of entire families, taking the lives of those they loved," he said.

Safety investigation

Mr Putin has ordered Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to provide funds for the victims' relatives and commission a report on the safety of Russia's ageing civil air fleet.

Flags are being flown at half mast on Thursday and entertainment programmes have been removed from television schedules.

The remains of the Tupolev-154
The safety of the Tupolev-154 is being questioned
A spokesman for the emergencies ministry said rescue workers were setting up hotel rooms for relatives flying in to identify the dead. Psychologists would be on hand.

The plane was carrying 136 passengers and nine crew, including nine to 12 Chinese nationals and six children. All 145 bodies have been found, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

Cause unknown

But the French AFP news agency said it was possible that the toll could rise, as children under two years old would not have been on the passenger list.

There were unconfirmed reports that the crew had taken on extra, unlisted passengers - a common practice on internal flights.

Tu-154 crashes
1994 125 died
1994 160 died
1995 97 died
1996 141 died
There are conflicting reports about what caused the crash. The plane is believed to have veered wildly off course.

Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu initially said engine failure was believed to have caused the crash, but later refused to speculate.

The BBC Moscow correspondent says the accident raises questions about the safety of the Tupolev-154 aircraft, which has been the work horse of Russia's civil aviation industry for 30 years.

Several have been involved in a number of deadly accidents in recent years.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | World
Air disaster timeline
03 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia's shaky air safety record
04 Jul 01 | Europe
How safe is the Tu-154?
04 Jul 01 | Europe
In pictures: Russia plane crash
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