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Rescuers Recover 14 Bodies from Crashed Russian Airliner - 2001-10-05

Rescuers have recovered the bodies of 14 of the 78 people who were on board a Russian airliner that exploded and crashed into the Black Sea Thursday.

The rescuers have recovered bodies and parts of the airplane, including the cockpit and some of the passenger compartment. There are 11 ships taking part in the operation at the crash site in deep water some 185 kilometers southwest of the town of Sochi.

Officials hope the wreckage will shed some light on what happened.

The Siberia Airlines plane was on a flight from Tel Aviv to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk on Thursday when, according to air crews in the vicinity, it exploded and crashed into the Black Sea.

On Thursday, unidentified Pentagon officials said the plane was accidentally shot down by the Ukrainian military, which was conducting misssile exercises in the area. The official said the plane was struck by a long-range missile fired from Ukraine's Crimean coast. The missile, thought to be an S-200, flies at three times the speed of sound and has a range of up to 300 kilometers. The military exercises were being conducted about 250 kilometers from the site of the crash.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed that idea, saying he had received reassurances from Ukraine that the weapons they were using did not have the range to shoot down the airliner. Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma vehemently denied that Ukraine had anything to do with it. Russian officials have also suggested that a terrorist act could have brought down the plane.

President Bush spoke by telephone with President Putin on Thursday, expressing his condolences, but he did not address the issue of what may have caused the crash.