89 Reported Dead in Two Russian Plane Crashes

August 25, 2004

Two airliners operated by Russian companies crashed within minutes of one another late Tuesday night. All 89 persons on board the two jets, which had taken off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport within 40 minutes of each other, are presumed to have died when the planes went down.

The BBC reported that the wreckage of the first plane to crash, a Tu-134 bound for Volgograd, was found near the village of Buchalki about 125 miles south of Moscow. Witnesses on the ground indicated that there was an explosion shortly before the crash. No distress signals from the aircraft were reported.

The second plane, a Tu-154 headed for the Black Sea resort of Sochi, reportedly did send a distress signal, or possibly a hijack alert, shortly before it crashed near the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don about 600 miles south of Moscow.

Although Russian authorities have yet to issue any official comments, the nearly simultaneous occurrence of the two air tragedies has raised fears of a coordinated terrorist attack. President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation by the nation’s main intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and security has been beefed up at airports across the country.

An AP report notes that “authorities have expressed concern that separatists in war-ravaged Chechnya could carry out attacks linked to this Sunday’s election to replace the region’s pro-Moscow president, who was killed by a bombing in May. Rebels have been blamed for a series of terror strikes that have claimed hundreds of lives in Russia in recent years.”

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