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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Ukraine experts join air crash probe
Recovered debris
The wreckage is being examined in Sochi
Military experts from Israel and Ukraine have joined the investigation into what caused a Russian airliner, carrying 78 passengers, to crash into the Black Sea with the loss of all on board.

The Ukrainian Government said it was sending a delegation to the coastal town of Sochi, 180km (110 miles) north of the crash site, after persistent reports that one of its ground-to-air missiles could have shot down the aircraft.

A team of 20 Israeli experts has also arrived in Sochi - 51 Israelis died in the tragedy.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian defence ministry told news agency AFP that the delegation would provide "all the photographic, audio and radio information" it had relating to the relevant missile exercise in the Crimean peninsula.

"We will do everything possible to contribute to the work of the Russian experts," the spokesman added.

Pilot's cry

The news comes as experts deciphering the plane's black box claim to have heard the pilot cry out shortly before the plane exploded.

The recorder logged communications between the plane's cockpit and air traffic control.

Russia's Deputy Transport Minister, Alexander Neradko, told journalists: "We can pinpoint the exact time of the catastrophe due to a cry that was recorded at the moment the crew began communications with the ground".

Terrorist attack?

Russian investigators maintain that a terrorist act caused the disaster, which occurred less than a month after the attacks in the US.

Crash locator map
The Russians base this claim on what it calls "foreign objects" recovered during the salvage operation.

According to the head of the Russian investigation team, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, the objects could not have come from the plane itself.

However, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Saturday that neither he nor President Vladimir Putin were satisfied with Ukrainian reports that an S-200 land-to-air missile exercise did not bring the plane down.

Mr Ivanov said that a missile was fired four minutes before the plane went down.

Missile tracked

US authorities have also said they believe a Ukrainian missile was involved.

The US tracked a missile during the Ukrainian military exercise with satellites that sense the heat of its launch. US officials said the timing of the launch coincided with the disaster.

Russia has also asked the United States to provide documentary evidence that it was a missile that downed the plane.

See also:

05 Oct 01 | Europe
Press split over Black Sea crash
05 Oct 01 | Europe
How safe is the Tu-154?
05 Oct 01 | Europe
Russia's shaky air safety record
05 Oct 01 | World Cup 2002
Fifa calls off Israel match
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