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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Learning to take the blame
Ukraine plane crash
The Su-27 jet was flying too low

Following the world's worst air show disaster in Ukraine on Saturday, officials were quick to arrest the head of the air force and other senior officers.

The two pilots of the plane which crashed into the crowd managed to eject to safety and are in hospital, but under suspicion of negligence.


The supposed idea of 'collective responsibility' in Soviet times often led to collective irresponsibility

It seems that the authorities are searching for a scapegoat who can be blamed for the disaster.

But perhaps they should look deeper - into Ukraine's, and the Soviet Union's, past.

The supposed idea of "collective responsibility" in Soviet times often led to collective irresponsibility.

Someone had to be blamed for things that went wrong, but the finger rarely pointed higher than those immediately answerable for what had happened.

Cutting corners

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 - the world's worst nuclear disaster - was a tragic example of this.

Everyone who helped to build the power station knew that it was constructed in the same way as any state building.

Theft of materials was commonplace, corners were cut, savings were made and siphoned off into the pockets of individuals.

There can be no doubt that the actual explosion which caused such devastation at Chernobyl was the direct result of careless practices by those on duty at the time.

But no one attempted to look beyond that subject after the accident.

Those in charge of the power station received 10-year jail sentences for negligence; yet cutting corners and corrupt practices - even in matters of nuclear safety - continued.

Sloppiness

Only last week, the Russian authorities finally admitted that the Kursk submarine was sunk by an onboard explosion - nearly two years after the event.

The navy's knee-jerk - Soviet - reaction, had been to try to blame anyone, but the system.

The closest that any official has come to acknowledging that the problem of sloppy practices and corruption exists came shortly after the Kursk went down in August 2000.

When the Ostankino television tower in Moscow went up in flames, President Vladimir Putin admitted that accident was caused by the sort of carelessness which had become endemic in the system.

The Ukrainian air show disaster is yet another illustration this lesson has still to be properly understood in the former Soviet Union.

The Su-27 jet was flying too low, over an area packed with spectators, and security measures on the ground - such as keeping people behind safety barriers - were being ignored.

Somehow though, it seems unlikely that even this catastrophe will be the catalyst to change the sloppy practices which are so deeply embedded in the Soviet psyche.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Ukraine crash
Could the tragedy have been prevented?
See also:

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