Alexander Velovich/moscow

A one-week ban on all flights of Russian air force aircraft "-except those directly connected to combat duty" has been ordered by Commander in Chief Gen Piotr Deinekin.

The order was issued after an air force Antonov An-12 collided on landing with a civil Mil Mi-8 helicopter on the runway of Nariyan-Mar Airport in the Archangelsk region just five days after an Antonov An-124 military transport crashed at Irkutsk.

The recent spate of crashes also appear to have prompted President Boris Yeltsin to refuse the extension of Deinekin's military service.

The Commander-in-Chief celebrated his 60th birthday in December, and by Russian law must resign unless the President allows him to continue on a year-by-year basis. Deinekin was seen as the most likely candidate to take command of a merged air force and air-defence force. One of the strongest contenders to succeed him is Col Gen Vladimir Andreyev, commander of fighter aviation within the air-defence forces.

The An-12/Mi-8 collision resulted in the death of eight passengers on board the Mi-8 while ten others were injured, including the An-12 pilots.

The air force An-12 was flown by a civil crew of VEGA-M company under surveillance by military air traffic controllers. The cause of the crash is believed to be poor co-ordination of the civil and military ATC sectors at the airport.

Source: Flight International