Criminal probe into Ukraine crash
KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament has voted to open a criminal investigation into the crash of a Russian airliner thought to have been downed by a stray Ukrainian missile.
More than the required third of deputies backed the motion that senior defence ministry officials knew a missile had hit the plane on the day of the disaster and had misled parliament and the public, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.
All 78 crew and passengers died after the Tupolev Tu-154 jet exploded and crashed into the Black Sea on October 4, when Ukrainian forces were holding live-fire missile exercises in the Crimean peninsula.
Most of the passengers were Russian-born Israelis flying from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk in Siberia.
The two deputies who sponsored the measure, Hrygory Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak, said Ukrainian Defence Minister Alexander Kuzmuk "misled the people's deputies by saying that the missile could not have hit the plane," according to the parliament statement.
"The position of Ukraine's president and defence minister over the destruction of the Tu-154 passenger plane became the latest proof that lies, double morality, double standards, and officials' irresponsibility have moved to the state policy level in Ukraine," they said.
Ukraine's initial denial of involvement prompted incredulity from Russian officials and anger in Israel.
A change of heart came after Russian experts found S200 missile parts among the wreckage of the plane.
Kuzmuk admitted at the weekend that Ukrainian forces were involved but he could not explain how a missile could have destroyed the jet.
Also on Tuesday, Russia's deputy prosecutor general said the time was drawing near to "fully establish the guilt" of the Ukrainians involved.
Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said investigators were now focused on one explanation for the downing of the Tu-154 -- a Ukrainian missile hit the aircraft.
"There is only one theory at the moment -- that the plane may have been hit by a missile," he told a press conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
"Now we are looking at the question of handing over this criminal case to the Ukrainian prosecutor's office in order to complete the case and fully establish the guilt of the Ukrainians," he said, adding that only a Ukrainian court has the jurisdiction to prosecute.
Fridinsky also said all salvage work had ended, and he called for compensation for victims.
"The guilty side, when established, must cover all the losses, including moral ones," he said.
President Leonid Kuchma caused anger after the crash when he said that "we should not make a tragedy out of matters if it was a mistake. Bigger mistakes have been made."
The disaster was the second time in 18 months that Ukraine's armed forces lost control of a live missile.
In 2000, four people were killed in their homes in the town of Brovary when a Tochka-U missile struck their apartment block.
The Defence Ministry denied responsibility until rescue workers found remnants of the missile among the rubble.
Both Kuzmuk and Volodymyr Tkachyov, commander of Ukraine's anti-aircraft forces, tried to resign immediately after the plane crash, but Kuchma refused the offer.
Ukraine apologises for jet crash
October 13, 2001
Kiev accepts jet crash missile theory
October 13, 2001
Israeli experts join crash probe
October 7, 2001
Sources: Ukrainian missile downed jet
October 4, 2001
Russia probes jet crash terror link
October 5, 2001
Aviation Safety Network: Tupelov 154 incidents
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