Russia mourns mid-air victims
UFA, Russia -- Hundreds of mourners gathered in the Ural mountains city of Ufa to pay final respects to many of those killed in last week's mid-air crash over Germany.
A crowd estimated at about 1,000 people gathered in Ufa's central square where Muslim and Russian Orthodox ceremonies were held to mourn the victims, mostly children and young people.
The collision of the Russian Tu-154 and a DHL Boeing cargo jet left 71 people dead, including 60 from the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, 49 of them children.
"No words can describe the grief and sorrow the tragedy has caused to our families," Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov told the mourners.
Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Russian Federation Council, arrived in Ufa on Saturday to attend the ceremony.
"Your pain is immeasurable and your loss irrecoverable," he said, offering condolences on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"And no matter whose fault it finally will be -- of air traffic controllers, the crews, tourist firms or evil fate -- we the adults are to be blamed that we have not saved our children," he said.
Following the Muslim and Russian Orthodox services, where the mourners wept over 28 zinc-lined wooden coffins lined up on the city's main square, a procession of buses bearing portraits of the victims carried their coffins for burial at the cemetery in southern Ufa.
Funerals for more than 30 of the victims had already been held in Ufa last week, with Putin later visiting the cemetery where they were buried. (Full story)
A special cargo plane brought 28 coffins from Germany to Ufa on Saturday morning. During the trip from the city's airport to the main square, people lined the route throwing flowers along the procession's path.
There is still anger in Russia over statements by Swiss officials immediately after the crash apparently blaming the Russian pilots for the tragedy. The focus of the investigation has since switched to Swiss air traffic control.
Swiss President Kaspar Villiger was forced to cancel plans to attend Saturday's Ufa service after the Russian authorities said they could not guarantee his security because of strong emotions in the region.
Switzerland has now admitted "lapses" in the handling of the aftermath of the collision.
At a memorial ceremony on Friday near the crash site in southern Germany, Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger apologised for early statements by Skyguide, the privately-run air traffic control service. (Full story)
Last week a Swiss air traffic controller was suspended and the number of controllers on duty increased on orders from the Swiss government.
Flight voice recorder information released by German officials showed that about 45 seconds before the July 1 crash, automatic warning systems on the two planes simultaneously told pilots to take emergency manoeuvres, directing the Russian plane to climb and the DHL International cargo plane to descend.
But one second later, Swiss air traffic control told the Russian plane to descend. Faced with conflicting orders, the Russian pilot hesitated until the order was repeated by air traffic control 14 seconds later.
The Russian then acknowledged in English that he had received the air traffic controller's order, and overrode the computer directions.
Crash prompts air control shake-up
July 9, 2002
Pilot got conflicting warnings
July 8, 2002
Putin mourns air crash victims
July 8, 2002
Swiss ATCs cut burden after crash
July 6, 2002
Homicide probe into mid-air crash
July 4, 2002
Russian plane crash kills 143
October 4, 2001
Dozens feared dead in midair crash
July 2, 2002
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