- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

SOCHI, Russia Crash investigators and military specialists from Israel and Ukraine joined the widening probe yesterday into the explosion of a Russian airliner over the Black Sea that killed 78 persons.
The Ukrainian government announced that it was sending a top-level military delegation to Sochi after persistent reports that one of its ground-to-air missiles might have shot down the Sibir Airlines Tu-154 flight from Tel Aviv on Thursday.
A team of 20 Israeli technicians arrived in Sochi to help Russian investigators search the crash site for clues to the tragedy, in which 51 Israeli citizens were killed.
Russia still believes a terrorist attack may have brought down the plane.
But additional evidence of a missile accident surfaced yesterday after it was revealed one of the doomed jet's pilots was heard to cry out just minutes after a Ukrainian S-200 missile was launched during military exercises on the Crimean peninsula.
The cry was recorded on a tape monitoring communications between the cockpit and air-traffic control, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Alexander Neradko told journalists here.
"We can pinpoint the exact time of the catastrophe due to a cry that was recorded at the moment the crew began communications with the ground: it was 1:45 p.m. and 12 seconds," Thursday, he said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov sent an "urgent message" yesterday to his Ukrainian counterpart, Olexander Kuzmuk, demanding information about a Ukrainian S-200 ground-to-air missile that he says was fired at 1:41 pm Thursday.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry said its delegation to Sochi, led by Gen. Valery Kaminsky, would provide "all the photographic, audio and radio information" it had relating to the missile exercise.
Mr. Ivanov said neither he nor President Vladimir Putin was satisfied with Ukrainian reports that the ground-to-air missile exercise had nothing to do with the blast.
U.S. authorities have also said they believe a Ukrainian missile was involved.
The Israeli rescue workers arrived yesterday in Sochi, a popular coastal resort 110 miles north of where the Sibir airliner crashed into the sea.
Relatives of the Israeli victims were also expected to land here shortly, and were due to be taken by ship Monday, along with Russian mourners, to pay homage to their relatives near the crash site.
"We are here to help to identify bodies," said Izak Kornio, an Israeli police administrator who arrived with the crew. So far rescue teams have been able to recover only 16 bodies, eight of which have been identified.
Eleven rescue boats continued the grim task of scouring the wreckage for bodies and clues.
The head of the Russian investigation team, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, said yesterday that "foreign objects" that could not have been part of the Tu-154 jet had been recovered during salvage work.
Despite robust denials from Ukraine's president and defense minister, the country's prime minister, Anatoly Kinakh, said he had not ruled out that a missile could have shot down the Russian plane.

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