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|Friday, October 12, 2001, updated at 23:06(GMT+8)|
Ukraine Admits Mistakenly Shooting Down Russian Passenger PlaneUkrainian Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk admitted on Friday that the Russian Tu- 154 passenger plane that crashed into the Black Sea on October 4 could have been mistakenly shot down by a Ukrainian S-200 missile.
"According to preliminary conclusion by Russian and Ukrainian experts, the Tu-154 plane could have crashed as a result of the strike of a Ukrainian missile," Marchuk told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Rushailo. Both of the two security leaders flew to Sochi on Thursday for a final conclusion on the accident.
Rushailo, who heads a state commission investigating the crash, said experts had concluded the plane was shot down by a warhead of an anti-aircraft missile after "scrupulous examination of the fragments of the plane and recorded conversations of the crew members."
He said additional analysis is being done on fragments of both the plane and the missile with a view to establishing the condition of the strike.
An investigation group, including experts from Russia, Ukraine and Israel, are working in Sochi to determine the cause of the tragedy.
The Russian Tu-154 airplane, on route from Tel Aviv to the Russian Siberian city of Novosibirsk, exploded and plunged into the Black Sea coast off Russia on October 4, killing all 78 people on board.
Some Western reports quoted U.S. intelligence officials as saying that the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian S-200 missile fired during military exercises in the Crimean Peninsula, which juts into the Black Sea.
Ukrainian officials strongly denied such allegations, saying an S-200 missile was fired ten minutes before the plane would have crossed its trajectory.
But Ukraine's stance appeared to be shifting after a top Russian investigator said Tuesday that experts have found fragments resembling the missile's payload at the Black Sea crash site.
Marchuk said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had decided to set up a mixed commission to "look into the causes and circumstances of the accident in close cooperation with the Russian side."
"The final conclusions will be drawn after the completion of studies in both Russian and Ukrainian territories," he said.
Kuchma on Thursday turned down the resignation of Defense Minister Alexander Kuzmuk, saying he was waiting for the conclusion of experts.
"But if the military is proved faulty, that will be a different matter. Somebody will have to bear responsibility," he said.
The president promised on Wednesday to accept any conclusion of the investigation into the mishap, even one that implicates his nation's military.
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