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05/03/2006
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1) Armenian Jet Crashes off Russia, 113 Killed
2) Kocharian Orders Plane Crash Inquiry, Declares National Mourning
3) ARF Western Region Offers Condolences to Plane Crash Victims~R Families
4) Turkey Experiences Setbacks in Human Rights Reforms

1) Armenian Jet Crashes off Russia, 113 Killed

(Reuters/AP)All 113 passengers and crew on board an Armenian airliner were
killed on Wednesday when the plane crashed into the Black Sea off the Russian
coast as it tried to land in torrential rain.
Investigators blamed bad weather for bringing down the Airbus A-320, which
was
trying to land at Sochi, a popular holiday spot in southern Russia. Russian
Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said weather was
considered the likeliest cause. He said that the clouds were as low as 100
meters (330 feet) at the time of the crash.
Divers searched storm-churned waters off Russia's coast for the remains of
the
113 passengers. A spokesman for the Russian emergencies ministry said rescue
workers had found baggage, life jackets, body parts, pieces of the shattered
plane, and a patch of oil floating on the surface of the sea at the crash
site.
"According to preliminary information, all people on board are dead," a
ministry spokeswoman said.
Wreckage from the plane was found not far from the shoreline. Sergei Kudinov,
the head of the emergency ministry's southern office, said the fuselage was
found at a depth of 400 meters (1,300 feet). Search and rescue teams had
pulled
47 bodies from the water so far, emergency officials said; none was wearing a
life jacket, indicating they did not have time to prepare for an emergency
landing.
Twenty-five boats, many carrying divers, were involved in the search, and a
deep-sea robot was to be used to try to recover the plane's recorders, the
emergency ministry said. But Rudolf Teymurazov of Russia's Intergovernmental
Aviation Committee, expressed doubt the recorders could be found because water
at the crash site is as deep as 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).
The plane broke up on impact and passengers' personal belongings and plane
fragments were found scattered over an area spreading 1.5 kilometers (a mile)
from the crash site. Rough seas, driving rain, and low visibility were
hampering the search, Russian news agencies reported.
The plane, operated by Armavia, had been making a short flight of about an
hour from the Armenian capital Yerevan. Most of the passengers were Armenian
nationals. The airline organized a special flight to take relatives from
Yerevan to the site of the tragedy.
About 100 tearful relatives kept an anguished vigil in a waiting hall of the
Adler airport just outside Sochi, a resort town that became popular with
Russians in the Soviet era. One man became hysterical and had to be taken away
by ambulance. Sobbing women held handkerchiefs to their mouths, while men sat
silently, their heads in their hands.
Relatives also gathered at the airport in Yerevan. A list of passengers
showed
26 had Russian passports and almost all the rest were Armenians.
"I was waiting for a call from my mother that she had arrived okay. But she
did not phone, so I phoned myself and heard that this accident had happened,"
Hapet Tadevosyan, 32, said as he stood in the Yerevan airport building. "She
flew to Sochi to see her sisters, whom she hadn't seen for 15 years," he
said.
Gurgen Serobian, whose 23-year-old fiancee Lusine Gevorkian was an attendant
on the flight, wept as he waited at Yerevan airport for a charter flight that
was to take relatives of the crash victims to Adler.
Samvel Oganesian said his 23-year-old son Vram and his friend Hamlet Abgarian
had been heading to Sochi for vacation. "Why did he go?" Oganesian asked in
anguish, over and over again.
Beltsov said the plane vanished from radar screens at 2:15 AM Wednesday
(10:15
PM GMT Tuesday) near Sochi, which lies close to the Georgian border. The
emergencies ministry said the torrential rain had probably caused the crash
after the plane failed to land on its first attempt.
He said it went down while trying to make a second attempt at an emergency
landing. However, the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control
agency as saying that the plane's crew had not declared any emergency.
"At the moment, we have absolutely no evidence pointing to the possibility of
a terrorist act on the plane," Deputy General Prosecutor Nikolai Shepel told
Interfax news agency.
An Armavia official said the aircraft had initially been refused
permission to
land because of the storm, but the airport officials changed their minds. He
ruled out a technical failure. "The plane was in ideal technical condition,
the
crew was well qualified," said Andrei Aghajanov, deputy commercial director of
the airline.
Aghajanov said that weather conditions were "certainly" the cause. The plane
was manufactured in 1995 and underwent full-scale servicing a year ago, he
said.
Armavia is the largest airline in ex-Soviet Armenia and has three Airbus 320s
of the kind that crashed. The plane was carrying at least five children and
eight crew members.

2) Kocharian Orders Plane Crash Inquiry, Declares National Mourning

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)--President Robert Kocharian rushed his influential Defense
Minister Serge Sargsian to southern Russia early Wednesday to investigate the
worst plane crash in Armenia's history and declared a two-day period of
national mourning for its 113 victims.
Kocharian held an emergency meeting with Sargsian, Prime Minister Andranik
Markarian and senior Armenian officials immediately after news of the deadly
accident reached Yerevan. A statement by his press service said Sargsian was
instructed to clarify its "causes and circumstances on the spot." The Armenian
Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal case in connection with the
crash, it added.
The Defense Minister was already in Sochi by early afternoon. He was due
to be
joined there by Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin. The two men co-chair
the Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.
Kocharian was also contacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin early in the
morning. A statement released by the Kremlin said Putin briefed him on the
"large-scale search and rescue operation conducted by the Russian side in the
disaster area and planned further actions."
"Robert Kocharian expressed gratitude for the telephone call and the detailed
information," the statement said. "Armenian specialists will join in the
operation very soon."
Putin and Kocharian were also cited as describing the plane crash as a
"common
tragedy of the Armenian and Russian peoples." Armenia will officially mourn
its
victims on Friday and Saturday. Friday will also be a day of national mourning
in Russia.
At least twenty-six of the 113 passengers and crew on board the Airbus A-320
of the Armenian national airline Armavia were Russian citizens. Most of them
were of Armenian descent.
Virtually all of the other victims are believed to be Armenian nationals.
Among them were Vyacheslav Yaralov, deputy director of Armavia and the former
head of Armenia's civil aviation authority, Husik Harutiunian, a business
executive who used to head the Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB in the late
1980s, as well as the son of Karlos Petrosian, former head of the National
Security Service, the Armenian successor to KGB.
Kocharian formed a separate government commission tasked with repatriating
the
bodies of the Armenian victims and organizing their funerals in Armenia. The
commission will be headed by Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian.
The Armenian parliament, meanwhile, observed a minute of silence in honor of
the dead before adjourning its regular session on Wednesday. Deputies also
decided to form a multi-party ad-hoc group that will take part in the
Russian-Armenian investigation of the crash.

3) ARF Western Region Offers Condolences to Plane Crash Victims~R Families

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Western Region Central Committee
Wednesday learned with deep sorrow about the Armavia Armenian airline crash in
Sochi.
The ARF Central Committee offered its condolences and extended its sympathies
to all those who lost loved ones or were affected by this tragic accident.

4) Turkey Experiences Setbacks in Human Rights Reforms

In an interview with Aztag Daily, Professor Noam Chomsky said that although
Turkey has made slow progress in improving its Human Rights record since 2002,
lately the country has regressed in reforms.
According to Chomsky, the Turkish Armed Forces do not want to lose their hold
on Turkish society. He also said that the EU's reluctance to admitting Turkey
into the Union has become apparent in Turkey. All these are reasons for the
setbacks in reforms, said Chomsky.
The entire interview, in which Chomsky also discusses US foreign policy,
issues relating to the Middle East, and the present geo-political situation
using historical examples, will appear in Aztag and the international press in
coming days.

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