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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Media reel from twin crash blows
Russian rescue jeeps and helicopters
Rescuers at the Tu-134 crash site (Picture: RTR Russia TV)

The two airliner crashes dominate Russian television and radio news programmes, with graphic descriptions by witnesses and mixed views from intelligence officials.

Russia TV's Vesti news programme showed footage of rescue teams scouring a field for bodies of the victims of the Tu-134 passenger plane. Fire-trucks and helicopters were at the scene, near Tula south of Moscow.

The TV devoted its entire midday 10-minute news bulletin to the aftermath of the crashes. It showed emergency telephone numbers for families of the victims to contact.

Vesti interviewed witnesses who described a series of explosions like thunderclaps, as a doomed airliner flew low overhead.

"There was a series of bangs, at about 11 o'clock. Then a kind of, I thought the thunderstorm had started up again, then a kind of longer roar, and then it ended."

On Russia's NTV news channel, a local man said: "There was this strange noise in the sky, then this torn-up book fell onto our garage," holding up the book with its tattered pages.

TV channels also showed relatives and friends grieving at Domodedovo airport.

Revised accounts

Confusing Russian reports of the crashes initially filtered out, with Russia's ITAR-TASS confirming at 2154 GMT on Tuesday that two planes were involved.

The first agency reports said a Tupolev Tu-154 had crashed at Tula, but later altered this to the smaller airliner type, the Tu-134. Soon it became apparent that a Tu-154 had indeed crashed as well, at Rostov-on-Don.

Relatives at Moscow's Domodedovo airport
Awaiting news at the airport (Picture: RTR Russia TV)

At mid-morning Wednesday, Interfax news agency issued revised casualty figures from officials at Moscow's Domodedovo airport.

It said the two planes were carrying a combined total of 89 people. The Tu-134 flying from Moscow to Volgograd had 43 people on board - 35 passengers and eight crew. The Tu-154 plane flying from Moscow to Sochi had 46 people on board - 38 passengers and eight crew.

Cause and effect

Speculation over the causes of the crash peppered all the media accounts of events.

State-owned Radio Russia cited aviation experts as saying the likelihood of a Tupolev airliner simply breaking up in mid-flight was non-existent.

It cited a source at the prestigious Gromov Flight Research Institute, at Moscow's Zhukovskiy air base, as saying recovered debris from the crashed Tu-134 showed "the possibility of a powerful external influence on the fuselage of the plane".

Sibir Airlines, whose Tu-154 plane crashed en route from Moscow to Sochi, said a terrorist attack may well have caused the disaster.

Later it emerged that the Tu-154 had sent an SOS message just before the it went down, not a hijack message. And as events unfolded, Russia's TV and radio media cited the FSB intelligence agency playing down reports of terrorism links.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The BBC's Tim Muffett
"Witnesses have spoken of an explosion seen before it hit the ground"

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