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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
Ukrainian, Russian papers assess plane crashes
Russian emergency workers at the crash scene
"What has happened to our aviation?" one paper asks
Newspapers in Russia and Ukraine have begun to dig deeper after the weekend's air disasters in the two countries, and come to some grim conclusions.

Most dailies report that criminal proceedings have been instituted against the pilots from the air show in Lviv, who are under guard in hospital.

Volodymyr Toponar and Yuriy Yehorov ejected from the Su-27 fighter moments before it crashed, killing 83 people, including 19 children, on what Den calls "Black Saturday".


The military should learn military skills not in a 'circus arena', but at closed training ranges

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Ukraine's Segodnya names the top brass hit by fallout from the disaster, a list that seems sure to grow.

It notes that Ukraine's air force commander Viktor Strelnikov, among others, has been removed from his post, and praises President Leonid Kuchma for moving so swiftly.

But for General Strelnikov and his colleagues, the paper says that sackings are the least of their worries - they also face criminal charges and heavy punishments.

Deadly trick

The Russian Government's daily newspaper, under the headline "Deadly trick", says the pilots are accused of "recklessness".

Rossiyskaya Gazeta suggests their flying skills had suffered because they got too little practice, and is harshly critical that air shows might be used to compensate "for the lack of normal combat training."

"The military should learn military skills not in a 'circus arena', but at closed training ranges," it declares.

The left-wing daily Trud is also critical of the military.

In an articled titled "Bloody Show" - a headline also used by Komsomolskaya Pravda - the newspaper talks of "the official negligence and poor executive discipline prevailing in the Ukrainian armed forces, which Saturday's disaster has demonstrated for the umpteenth time".


We must... set about eliminating the regressive effects of the process of disintegration

Krasnaya Zvezda

Trud says this "will significantly delay the realisation of the Kiev authorities' cherished dream of joining NATO."

The Russian Defence Ministry paper Krasnaya Zvezda goes further.

It suggests the Su-27 disaster in Lviv and the crash of the Il-86 plane in Moscow are "punishment" for the break-up of the Soviet armed forces.

"Systematic training has been relegated to the background, while entertainment shows take priority", it declares, lamenting "the critical condition of military hardware and arsenals which have been split up along national lines".

"There is no getting away from the fact that we must return to what bound our two peoples together for centuries and, rolling up our sleeves, set about eliminating the regressive effects of the process of disintegration," it concludes.

Survivors' tales

Ukrainian papers look at the human side of the Lviv accident, with the Russian-language Segodnya also reports that "thousands" returned to the airfield on Sunday to pay respects - and count their blessings.


The wing of the crashed aircraft literally chopped off the heads of people

Fakty i Komentarii

Den quotes one as saying that "it's a miracle that I'm still alive".

"I just remember that someone's torn off head hit me in the shoulder and I fell. At that very moment a piece of metal flew over me. If had stayed on my feet, you wouldn't be talking to me right now."

Another compares the accident to "the end of the world - fire, an explosion, people's heads, hands, legs torn off".

Fakty i Komentarii also reports on the details of the crash.

"Adults shielded their children with their bodies," it says.

"The wing of the crashed aircraft literally chopped off the heads of people. Arms, heads went flying".

The pro-presidential tabloid reports that some spectators appeared indifferent to the carnage:

"Some of the people present calmly continued drinking their beer - as if what was taking place on the airfield was a continuation of the show for them."

Den also contrasts the immediacy of the survivors' horror to the calm in Lviv as President Leonid Kuchma rushed to the scene.

"It seemed like just another day in the city," the reporter recalls. "Lviv had still not realised the scale of the tragedy."

Russia's own crash

The Russian papers also have their own crash to consider - an Il-86 passenger jet that went down shortly after take-off from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

The jet had no passengers, and two of the 16 crew survived - one with little more than scratches and bruises.

As Trud puts it, the stewardesses, who were in the tail section, "had the luck of the devil".

Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports that the black boxes from the aircraft have been found and they are in good condition.

The liberal broadsheet Vremya Novostey, however, has some bad news on that front.

It says that experts have discovered that the cockpit voice recorder failed to record anything.


Our air transport is seriously ill

Trud

Apparently, the recorder was still rewinding during the first minutes of the ill-starred flight.

"The final commands and last words of the pilots, which usually play a crucial role in establishing the reasons for an air disaster, remain a mystery," says the paper.

However, the two other black boxes - which record over a hundred flight parameters, including engine performance - did work.

According to the popular Moskovskiy Komsomolets, President Vladimir Putin also uses an Il-86 - a model that had no previous fatal accidents.

The presidential plane and three other official Il-86s are being urgently checked, MK reports.

The disasters prompt Trud to ask "What has happened to our aviation?"

"Tragic news of accidents and disasters happening to Russian planes is, unfortunately, becoming all too commonplace."

It has little hope that "decisive measures will be taken and that nothing similar will happen again to our planes and helicopters."

It reels off a veritable litany of forced landings, crash landings and emergency landings that happened across the former Soviet Union last weekend - all of which were overshadowed by the disasters in Lviv and Moscow.

"Our air transport is seriously ill," it concludes.

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.

See also:

29 Jul 02 | Europe
27 Jul 02 | Europe
02 Jul 02 | Europe
02 Jul 02 | World
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