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Russia/Ukraine: Officials Debate Whether Lack Of Radar Caused Crash

Oslo, 30 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - Norwegian aviation officials today debated whether the lack of radar at an airport on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen contributed to yesterday's crash of a Russian plane.

The crash killed all 141 passengers and crew members aboard. The passengers were Russian and Ukrainian miners who work on the island.

Kjell-Ivar Leikfoss of the Norwegian Aviation Administration said today that if a navigation error caused the crash then, "the accident might have been avoided if the Svalbard Airport had had radar."

The head of the Norwegian Pilot's Association demanded better equipment at Svalbard and at other small airports.

But the deputy director of the Norwegian aviation administration, Lasse Bardal, said there is no evidence that lack of radar at the airport contributed to the crash.

Earlier, Russia's Meteorological Agency in Moscow dismissed the possibility that bad weather was to blame.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has declared today a day of national mourning for the crash victims. Kuchma called for a minute of silence to be observed.

There are conflicting reports on the number of Ukrainians who were aboard the plane, but Kuchma's press service put the number at 76.