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Russians Mourn Plane Crash Victims As Investigation Begins


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Russia is observing a national day of mourning for the 224 people killed yesterday in a crash of an airliner in Egypt. Most of the passengers were Russians on their way back to St. Petersburg after vacationing on the Red Sea. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that authorities and families of the passengers are looking for answers.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Russia's transport minister, Maxim Sokolov, cautioned that it was too soon to determine the cause of the Metrojet disaster.


MAXIM SOKOLOV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: He said that Russian experts will take an active part in the investigation in Egypt. And he rejected one claim that the airliner was shot down by Islamist rebels in the Sinai Peninsula. A local group that's pledged loyalty to the Islamic State says it brought the plane down. But Sokolov says that claim isn't credible. Analysts say it's unlikely that the rebels would have missiles capable of hitting a plane flying at 31,000 feet.


SOKOLOV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: Sokolov says there was no ban on flying in the region and that the Metrojet was following an established route. Even so, the German airline Lufthansa and Air France announced that they'd stop flying over the region until the cause of the Russian crash was determined. The Russian transit minister says investigators are looking into the maintenance and safety records of the Airbus aircraft. The wife of the copilot told reporters that her husband had complained about the mechanical condition of the plane before the flight. Friends and relatives of the people lost on the flight gathered in St. Petersburg, where Vyacheslav Makarov, the head of the city government, pledged help.


VYACHESLAV MAKAROV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: The city set up an information center for relatives at a hotel near the airport and brought in grief counselors to help people cope with the initial shock of their loss. St. Petersburg Television showed images of weeping family members and spoke to this man, who gave his name only as Nail.


NAIL: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: He said his wife and children had gone on holiday together. His children had come home a few days earlier. But his wife was on the plane that crashed. Nail said that he had dreamed the night before that his wife was injured. She sent him a text message just before the plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh. It said, God be with us. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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