One of them participates in the flights of the group “Ukrainian Falcons,” which incorporates best pilots. Aces catapulted during the latest moment, the plane fell down on the crowd of people and blew up.
Some ten thousand people were watching the air show in Lvov, a lot of parents brought their children. Their excitement was turned to panic in a second. As correspondents reported, “there were fragments of the plane scattered around on the field, and you could see dead bodies and severed body parts of the killed people amid them.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma came to Lvov from the Crimea, where he was spending his vacation. Other high-ranking officials of Ukraine came to the city together with the president. Kuchma visited the site of the tragedy and hospitals, to which injured the injured people were taken. Kuchma also talked to those pilots (they were hospitalized too with bone fractures), and they said to him that they could not do anything to prevent from the fall.
Yevgeny Marchuk, the Secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, advised that the crash at the air show killed 83 people, 19 of them were children. Sixty-six people were hospitalized, 18 of them are in hard condition. A ten-year-old boy died at the hospital on Saturday. Tens of the killed people have not been identified yet – they had no documents with them. Yevgeny Marchuk also added that the power of the blast was rather strong, so it was practically impossible to identify 30 bodies.
For the time being the committee of investigation is considering two basic reasons of the tragedy: the carelessness of the aviation command and technical malfunction of the plane. Marchuk said to journalists that the flight record had already been found. There is another version – pilots’ foolhardiness or mistake. At any rate, it is rather weird that the battle plane was flying right on the viewers at such low a height. The first actions followed the tragedy very fast: the Commander-in-chief of the Air Force of Ukraine Viktor Strelnikov, the commander of the 14th air corps Sergey Onishenko have been dismissed from their positions. It was also reported that President Kuchma fired Colonel General Peter Shulyak from the position of the chief of the Army Headquarters of Ukraine. Defense Minister Vladimir Shkidchenko reportedly sent in his resignation as well.
The Office of the Prosecutor General instituted criminal proceedings on the fact of the tragedy at the air show. The press-service of the Office reported about that fact that four top officials of the Ukrainian Air Force had been arrested: Colonel General Strelnikov, Lieutenant General Onishenko, Major General Tretyakov, Lieutenant Colonel Yatsuk. They are suspected of breaking the rules of aircraft maintenance, which resulted in grave consequences. Criminal proceedings were reportedly instituted against pilots too. By the way, the hospital, where the pilots are, is being profoundly guarded to prevent from a possibility of a suicide.
President Kuchma claimed on Saturday that the guilty people had to be punished. But who is guilty of the fact that the Ukrainian army is the major threat for the national security of the country? They launch missiles and hit apartment buildings or down passenger jets, air shows are over with killed children. Now the president banned any kind of air shows, having claimed that people should deal with the army, not with entertainment shows. However, this decision came really late. One of Ukrainian pilots said on television: “I don’t know if there is a war, but we would not win it, because our aviation does not actually exist.” Ukraine had 1.5 thousand planes ten years ago, now there are some 300, and a half of them is not operable. So, if President Kuchma wants to be consistent, then he is supposed to be the first to go – both as the commander-in-chief and as the president. This will definitely not be meant to happen: Kuchma will be looking for someone to blame and he will find some.
Andrey Lubensky PRAVDA.Ru Ukraine
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov