Source Pravda.Ru

President Kuchma rejects Defence Minister's resignation

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma rejected on Thursday a resignation tendered by Defence Minister Vladimir Shkidchenko.

The minister handed in an application to be relieved from his post on the second day after a Su-27 crash in Lvov.

President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, speaking before journalists in Sevastopol on Thursday, said, "I did not accept the application from the defence minister and suggested he continue his work".

The disaster in Lvov occurred on July 27 during an air show at a local aerodrome. A Su-27 fighter jet, while performing aerobatics, unexpectedly crashed into a crowd of spectators present at the show. The tragedy killed 83 people, including 27 children. Another 199 suffered wounds of different gravity.

Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office opened a criminal case on facts of the tragedy. Commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian air force Victor Strelnikov and three other senior officials of the Ukrainian army were detained. All of them are in a pre-trial detention centre.

On Wednesday the Lvov military court declined a request by the prosecutor's office to take them into custody as accused and extended the period of their detention to 10 days.

The court ruling is motivated by the lack at this stage of convincing proof of the direct guilt of the former commander-in-chief and other generals. The court believes that it will take time to define the degree of guilt of the accused and to investigate the causes of the catastrophe.

Pilots Vladimir Toponar and Yuri Yegorov, who flew the fighter, ejected a few seconds before an explosion. Now they are under medical supervision, including that of neuropathologists and psychotherapists. The pilots will be questioned immediately after their discharge.

On Wednesday, after a meeting of the Lvov military court, Ukraine's former commander-in-chief of the air force Victor Strelnikov said that the pilots were to blame for the disaster, because they had departed from their flight mission.

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