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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Russian plane explodes over Black Sea

A Russian passenger jet flying from Israel to Siberia burst into a fireball high over the Black Sea Thursday, killing the 76 people on board and raising fears that it could be the latest target of a terrorist attack.  




U.S. officials suggested, however, that the airliner was shot down by an errant surface-to-air missile fired by Ukrainian forces during military exercises taking place more than 200 miles away. Ukrainian officials denied the possibility.  




Pilots aboard the Siberian Airlines charter flight gave no warning of malfunction or mishap aboard the craft before it disappeared from radar screens at 1:44 p.m., Russian aviation officials said. The pilots had last spoken to air traffic controllers during a routine check five minutes earlier.  




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The Ukrainian armed forces were conducting exercises at the time that involved surface-to-air missiles, but Ukrainian and Russian officials insisted that the airliner was out of range of the weapons. Other scenarios included a bomb or catastrophic mechanical failure. 




Initially, Putin and other top officials had suggested that the most likely cause was terrorism.  




Pini Schiff, spokesperson for the Israeli Airport Authority, said the flight, its passengers and cargo underwent the same stringent security measures applied to all flights leaving the airport near Tel Aviv, including rigorous questioning of passengers, background checks and repeated inspection of luggage.  




The chances of a bomb having been placed on the plane in the Israeli airport 'are very poor,' Schiff said. 'Close to zero.'

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