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Medvedev Lashes Out At Russia’s Air Industry After Crash Wipes Out Hockey Team

After hockey powerhouse Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's Yak 42 charter crashed at take off, President Medvedev paid homage to the 43 killed, but launched into a harsh critique of an airline industry that counts too many new, untested carriers, and too few

Video image of the plane's fuselage on fire (typist9837)
Video image of the plane's fuselage on fire (typist9837)
Anna Rosova

YAROSLAVL – A day after a plane crash killed 43, wiping out one of Russia's top hockey teams, President Dmitry Medvedev wasted little time in pointing his finger at the proliferation of airline companies running domestic routes.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl had chartered the Yak 42 aircraft for a match in Minsk, with the local Dinamo side in the Kontinental Hockey league, which unites teams from the post-Soviet republics. The aircraft crashed just after take-off, which along with other accidents this year made Russia the most dangerous in the world in which to travel by air in 2011.

Medvedev, who met with operational staff after the crash, insisted that the results of the investigation into the causes be quickly made public. He said there needed to be a cutback in the number of airlines operating in Russia.

"The situation regarding domestic aviation in Russia must be radically changed," he said.

Medvedev assigned the Ministry of Transport to improve the system for training Russian pilots.

"We need to get rid of those who are not ready to work," he said

Medvedev also said fleets needed to be upgraded. "The problem is the industry and the government will have to make some very tough decisions," Medvedev said. "Of course we need to think about these aspects, but if air companies are not able to make progress quickly enough, we will need to get the technology from abroad."

He made assurances that the report into the causes of the Yak 42 crash would be transparent.

Transportation Minister Igor Levitin promised that controls over the next three days would be carried out on all air companies that use the YAK-42 aircraft. Currently, 16 different Russian air companies operate 57 such aircrafts.

The European Aviation Safety Agency ranked the Yak service as the least safe of the 35 Russian airlines flying to Europe.

A total of 121 people have now been killed in domestic plane crashes in Russia this year, ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had 108 fatalities.

Medvedev visited the site of the crash, where he laid red roses on the Tunoshonka riverbank, opposite fragments of the plane's fuselage. He crossed himself and remained there a while with his head bowed.

Among the dead were natives of Canada, Belarus, Sweden, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. There were thought to be two survivors, who are still in a critical condition.

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