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Russian Airliner Crashes, Killing All 88 People on Board

Russian officials say 88 people were killed early Sunday when a Boeing 737 crashed in the Ural mountains just outside the Siberian city of Perm. The passenger jet was getting ready to land after making the trek eastward from Moscow. Emma Stickgold has this report for the VOA in Moscow.

Witnesses said the crash lit up the darkened sky in the central Ural mountains.

Wreckage from the early morning crash lay strewn about a set of railroad tracks a few hundred meters from residential buildings, as helicopters circled overhead, and crews worked to clean up the debris.

All passengers and the crewmembers aboard died in the crash, after the jet, operated by Russian airline Aeroflot, lost contact with ground dispatchers.

Irina Danenberg is an Aeroflot spokeswoman.

She says that seven children were among the dead. She says the passenger list included 21 nationalities, including the United States, Switzerland, France, Germany, Turkey and Italy.

Railway tracks between Perm and Yekaterinburg along the Trans-Siberian route were shut down temporarily, as charred plane debris had yet to be cleared off the tracks.

Officials said investigators had located the "black box" flight recorder that often offers a glimpse into what transpired.

Aeroflot said in a statement that it will offer up to $80,000 for each victim in compensation.

Russia and other former Soviet republics have attracted criticism from international aviation experts for its relatively poor record on air traffic safety. Many have cited a lack of training among pilots, a steady stream of cost-cutting efforts, including the use of older aircraft, and not enough government control over the industry.

Thirty-three Russian aviation accidents resulted in the death of 318 people last year -a six-fold increase since 2005.