Missile brought down Sibir Tu-154: investigators

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Investigators probing the loss of a Sibir Tupolev Tu-154M over the Black Sea on 4 October have reached the initial conclusion that the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

All 78 passengers and crew on board the flight from Tel Aviv to the Russian city of Novosibirsk died when the aircraft apparently exploded in mid-air.

At a press conference to discuss progress on the investigation, held in the Russian Black Sea coastal city of Sochi today, Russian Government security council secretary Vladimir Rushaylo is reported in Russian media as saying: “Based on the conclusions of Ukrainian armed forces specialists, the technical commissions and Russian Interstate Aviation Committee MAK, we draw the preliminary conclusion that the reason for the crash of the aircraft could be accidental damage from a S-200 missile during exercises by the Ukrainian defence forces.”

Russian and Ukrainian officials had distanced themselves from a US-initiated suggestion that the aircraft had been brought down accidentally by the Ukrainian military during exercises, but fragments of recovered aircraft wreckage have provided strong evidence of a missile blast.

Sibir has responded cautiously to the announcement, saying that it requires more details from the investigating body before it decides on any course of action.

In a statement the airline says: “Sibir is not intending to present any judicial actions to anyone until the official conclusion of the state investigation commission regarding the loss of the aircraft clearly indicates precisely to whom the surface-to-air missile which brought down the aircraft belonged.”