Tupolev 154: Terrorism, missile, or system failure?

An aircraft carrying 77 passengers from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk has crashed into the Black Sea. President Putin and the FSB claim it was caused by a terrorist attack and the Pentagon claims it could have been a missile fired by the Ukranian army, which the Ukranians deny strongly.

The Sibir Air Tupolev 154, carrying 77 passengers, left Tel Aviv at 09.58 local time en route to Novosibirsk. On the way, the aircraft made a stopover in Burgas, Bulgaria, before crashing into the Black Sea 190 km. west of its destination.

Eyewitness accounts quoted by the Russian news agency, Interfax, tell of an explosion on board before the aircraft plummeted into the waters, killing all passengers, most of whom were Israeli citizens, probably of former citizens of Russia.

President Putin has claimed that “everything indicates” that this was a terrorist attack, a claim backed up by the Russian federation Intelligence Service, the FSB, which states that terrorism is “the first possibility."

However, the Pentagon, quoted by the CBS news station, stated that there was a possibility that this was an accident. “It may have been a training accident by the Ukranian army which was doing a test firing. It may have been a tragic accident”.

This accusation was hotly refuted by the Ukranians, whose Defense Minister, Konstantin Khivrenko, claimed, “The Ukranian army is not involved in this accident, either in theory or in practice."

Sources in Tel Aviv have expressed their surprise that the aircraft made a stopover in Bulgaria, since this was supposed to be a direct flight to Novosibirsk. This being the case, there is a third possibility – that the Tupolev was experiencing problems in its systems.

That a Pentagon source should make such a claim about missiles is either based upon hard fact from spy satellites, is a fabrication or a non-event badly reported or is a total lack of responsibility by the person who issued the statement, given that the Ukranian claim is true, and nothing suggests that it is not.

It will be remembered that an Air France Boeing crashed into the Atlantic shortly before the 1996 Olympic games as it was flying over a concentration of US Navy vessels. Nobody at the time accused the US Navy of shooting it down by accident.

Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL

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