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Ukraine to Pay Compensation for Shooting Down Sibir Airliner - 2003-11-13

The government of Ukraine has agreed to pay compensation for the accidental shooting of a passenger plane carrying mainly Israelis on route to Russia. The plane was hit by a missile during Ukrainian military exercises two years ago.

Seventy-eight passengers and crew lost their lives when the plane was struck by an anti-aircraft missile fired by Ukrainian forces.

Most of the passengers were new immigrants to Israel on their way to visit relatives in Russia and Russians returning from visiting family in Israel.

Israel announced Thursday that the Ukrainian government will pay each of the Israeli families a one-time compensation of several hundred thousand dollars.

The head of the Israeli delegation involved in the talks with Ukraine is Foreign Affairs Ministry legal advisor, Alan Baker.

"It's a lump sum," he said. "It's a considerable sum in the sphere of millions of dollars to enable the families to help live their lives in the future."

The plane, flown by Sibir Airways, was on its way from Tel Aviv to Russia, when it was shot down over the Black Sea on October 4, 2001, just weeks after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The incident was first believed to be a terrorist attack, but the Ukrainian government admitted guilt and offered to compensate the families of the passengers and crew.

It took more than two years to negotiate the compensation deal. Compensation talks with the families of the Russian victims are still ongoing.