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Almost 78 Dead in Ukraine Plane Crash - 2002-07-27

Almost 78 people are dead and many wounded after a Russian fighter plane crashed during an air show in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.

A Sukhoi fighter plane crashed during an air show in western Ukraine, killing and injuring scores of people on the ground. The accident occurred in the city of Lviv, near the border with Poland.

The two-man crew was performing difficult air maneuvers when it lost control of the aircraft.

Although there is no official reason for the accident, reports indicate that one of the plane's wings may have clipped something as it flew close to the ground. The plane then crashed, exploding in a ball of flames. Reports indicate that both pilots ejected safely.

The air show was staged by a local air unit to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

At the crash site, smoke from the wrecked plane billowed over the field. Scores of injured spectators were lying on the grass as people screamed in panic.

Russian television reported that thousands of people had attended the event and that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma flew to Lviv immediately after hearing about the tragedy.

The accident is another sign of the difficulties Ukraine's military is facing in the post-Soviet years due to lack of funding. Military pilots often don't have enough training time because fuel and spare parts for the planes are in short supply.

Last year, Ukraine's military was dealt a severe blow when an errant missile crashed into a Russian passenger plane, killing all on board.