2015-11-01 18:57:00

Russia mourns victims of its deadliest civilian air disaster

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis today sent his condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his closeness and prayers to all Russian nationals following the crash of a Russian Airbus over Egypt in which 224 people have died.

Egypt's President said today an investigation into the cause of the crash  could take months. 

His comments came after Islamic militants claimed responsibility for the disaster, while other officials have not ruled out  technical failure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday a day of national mourning.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi says an investigation into the cause of a Russian plane crash in which 224 people died could take months. His comments came after Islamic militants claimed responsibility for the disaster, while other officials did not rule technical failure. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday a day of mourning after the remains of victims of the Metrojet airline plane crash in Egypt were rushed to the Zeinhom morgue in the capital Cairo. 

A long procession of ambulances delivered the human remains. Among the those who died are at least 17 children. 

The deadliest known catastrophe in Russia's aviation history has triggered an outpouring of grief including in the Russian city of St. Petersburg where the doomed flight was to arrive. 


A desperate man expressed concerns about the children and his loved ones. "Tonight I had a bad dream. "I dreamt that I was washing her and she had only one leg. And at 6:00, or 05:30 in the morning she sent me a text message saying 'I am going to the boarding area, God be with us,' " he said. 

"And that's it. My son was just called for DNA testing," the man added before walking away, crying.     

Even in Ukraine the war between government forces and Russian backed separatists in the east seemed briefly forgotten: instead mourners placed flowers and even a teddy bear in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev. 

"A person is alive when we still remember him," said Gennadiy, a mourner. "As long as we remember the victims, innocent victims, they are alive."


Yet amid the grief, pressure is mounting on authorities to explain why the Airbus A321 crashed in Egypt's restless Sinai region.  

Cairo and Moscow have both rejected the claim from a militant group affiliated with Islamic State militants that it downed the aircraft 100 kilometres south of the town of El-Arish. 

However questions remain over the technical condition of the aircraft before it lifted off from the tourist resort Sharm el-Sheikh.   

A Russian aviation official said the plane "broke up in the air" some 23 minutes after departure. 

And the wife of the co-pilot of the Russian plane that crashed told Russian television that her husband had complained about the aircraft's condition. 


Natalya Trukhacheva said her husband Sergei Trukachev told a daughter by telephone that the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired.

Russia's Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov said an international has begun. "We can already say that this is not just a simple event or incident in the sky," he acknowledged at a press conference.

"There has been a catastrophe involving one of our airliners and a government commission is already working on an investigation into the causes of the disaster," the minister said. 

He added: "We have no official information [but] are leaving for the crash site to gather facts, carefully considering all available information and start an official procedure to launch an international investigation."

Yet Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has already cautioned that the investigation could take months. As relatives and the world await answers, several major airlines, including Emirates, Lufthansa and Air France, have already announced they will stop flying over the Sinai area for safety reasons.



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