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Putin mourns air crash victims

Putin offers condolences to the families of the victims.
Putin offers condolences to the families of the victims.  

UFA, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid his respects to dozens of children killed in last week's air crash over Germany.

Putin made an unscheduled stop in Ufa during a tour of the Russian provinces on Monday and went straight to the cemetery in the town where the victims had been buried earlier, Russian news agencies reported.

Thousands of Russians had gathered for a memorial service after the first 33 bodies arrived there from the crash scene. Orthodox and Muslim clergy led the service.

Russian television reports showed mourners clustered around flower-laden coffins.

Cockpit voice recorder offers clues to Germany crash, CNN's Stephanie Halasz reports (July 8)

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Memorial for air crash victims. CNN's Stephanie Halasz reports (July 8)

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Ufa, the capital of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, has been hit especially hard by the accident, in which a Bashkirian Airlines Tu-154 bound for Barcelona, Spain, slammed into a Boeing cargo jet operated by DHL over Lake Constance on Germany's border with Switzerland. Seventy-one people died in the crash.

The 45 Ufa children killed in the tragedy included many leading students and athletes from city schools, The Associated Press reported.

An examination of the voice recorders from the two jets involved in the midair crash have revealed the pilot of a Russian plane involved had received contradictory instructions. (Full story)

At the memorial service in Ufa, Talgat Tadzhuddin, the chief Russian Islamic leader, told RTR television: "It's a great and heavy loss for everybody," AP reported.

The families of many of the victims held private burials.

Sixty-nine of the victims were on the Russian plane carrying mostly children and teenagers from Ufa to Barcelona, Spain, for a holiday. The other two victims were the pilot and co-pilot of the DHL Boeing 757.

Bashkortostan's prime minister, Rafail Baidavletov, read a message of condolence at Monday's ceremony and said another service would be held Friday after an additional 28 bodies are expected to be returned.

"This misfortune has crossed out the clear and wonderful lives of these children," he said. "This terrible tragedy has found response not only in the hearts of citizens of Bashkortostan, but throughout Russia and the whole world."

All of the bodies have now been recovered from the crash site, which is scattered across 30 kilometres (20 miles) of southern Germany near the Swiss border, police said Monday.

The final two bodies were removed Sunday evening. Officials have identified the remains of 43 victims.

In addition to 52 children, the Russian jet was carrying 12 crew members and five adults.

The investigation has focused on the actions of Swiss air traffic controllers, in particular whether they gave the Russian pilot sufficient warning to descend before the collision at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,500 metres).

Yunir Valeyev lost his son Vener in the accident, and said the parents were anxiously following the investigation.

"We have very many questions and I think it's the duty of every parent to find out to the end how it happened," Valeyev told RTR.


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