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Ukraine: Kyiv To Pay Compensation For Downed Russian Jetliner

Last year on 4 October Ukrainian military forces conducting missile-firing exercises destroyed a Russian civilian airliner traveling from Israel. Relatives of the victims have been striving to gain compensation. Today the Ukrainian government announced it was willing to pay compensation for the accident.

Kyiv, 3 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Ukrainian government has announced it will pay compensation in the accidental downing last year of a Russian jetliner over the Black Sea.

All 78 passengers on board were killed, and relatives of the victims have been seeking compensation since the accident.

Today, the head of the Ukrainian commission set up to investigate the accident, Oleksandr Chaly, said Ukraine has admitted responsibility for the accident and would pay that compensation.

"The Ukrainian commission with responsibility for determining the cause of this accident has concluded that the air catastrophe occurred because of the tragic and fatal convergence of circumstances which resulted in the accidental destruction of the Tu-154 plane by a Ukrainian missile which was fired during the course of military exercises."

The plane was a Sibir Airlines Tu-154 passenger jet flying from Israel to Russia. All aboard the plane, except for 15 Russians, were Israeli passport-holders. Most were Jewish immigrants to Russia visiting their relatives still in Russia.

Chaly would not say how much money would be paid out. Ukraine will discuss the schemes for compensation at separate meetings with Israeli and Russian government representatives.

"The next consultations between Israel and Ukraine will take place on 20 October and during those Ukraine will be ready to propose concrete sums in compensation and will be ready to propose a concrete juridical mechanism to enable the compensation to take place."

Relatives of the victims had been trying for months to gain compensation from Ukraine for the accident. Two court actions are being taken against the Ukrainian defense ministry. One represents claims by relatives of the crew and the other by relatives of the passengers.

Despite the admission last year by the Ukrainian government that its forces were responsible for the tragedy, the Ukrainian defense ministry has challenged the compensation claims. It says there is still no final conclusion about the cause of the accident.

Chaly says Israeli officials have provided details about the victims that the Ukrainian side had requested, but that Russia has not.

Chaly says relatives of both Russian and Israeli citizens would receive the same sums. The payments are to be made next year after provision is made in the Ukrainian budget.

Chaly says the matter of compensation for the airliner is being dealt with separately. Sibir Airlines has been quoted in the press as claiming $10 million for the airliner. However, Chaly said that the Ukrainian side has learned that the sum being asked for is different from the amount the plane had been insured for.

He says the matter was still to be resolved, but Ukraine was not going to pay more than the insurance value of the plane.