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'No politics please': Russians bury first Egypt crash victims

06 november 2015, 15:53
0

Numb with grief, a young woman wept and called for her mother at a funeral in a small village in northwestern Russia for one of the victims of the plane crash inEgypt, AFP reports.

Several dozen friends and relatives gathered on Thursday at a cemetery in the small village of Sitnya to bid farewell to Nina Lushchenko, one of the 224 people killed in the disaster, at a ceremony bathed in autumn sunlight.

The 60-year-old school dinner lady from the city of Veliky Novgorod was among the first victims of Russia's deadliest aviation tragedy to be laid to rest at ceremonies across Russia, where hundreds of mourners laid flowers and lit candles in memory of the dead.

Most of those killed when the Airbus A-321 plane came down in Egypt's restiveSinai Peninsula at the weekend were tourists from Saint Petersburg and the surrounding region.

Both London and Washington have said the flight from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg may have been downed by a bomb.

Shortly after the crash Islamic State jihadists claimed they brought down the plane, in an apparent act of revenge for Moscow's bombing campaign in Syria.

Russia and Egypt have, however, dismissed the claims.

Lushchenko's friends and relatives said they wanted to grieve, not apportion blame.

"So far nothing is clear about why this happened," her husband Vladimir told AFP at the cemetery.

"The black boxes have not been deciphered yet, what's the use of talking now?" 

The mourners were also reluctant to be drawn on whether Russia's campaign in Syria -- its first major foreign military foray since the 1979-1989 war in Afghanistan -- had left Russians vulnerable to attack.

"What do Putin's policies have to do with this?" mourner Semyon Gerasimenko said.

"Is it now necessary to consult every terrorist so that they do not plant a bomb and to do what they say?

"I don't know who is guilty, what can I say? They say it's a bomb."

Before the burial, relatives and friends gathered at an ornate church in Veliky Novgorod, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Saint Petersburg, for a religious ceremony led by a priest.

Lushchenko was one of 15 people from the Novgorod region who died in the crash -- including a one-year-old baby and an 8-year-old boy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman dismissed claims a bomb may have caused the crash as "speculation" and Egypt has said it had no evidence pointing to a terror attack.

 

- 'Unpleasant for Kremlin' - 
 

Alexander Afanasyev, who was among the mourners, was also disinclined to discuss the possible causes of the tragedy.

"There's no need to speak about politics right now. What does it have to do with this?" the 50-year-old told AFP.

"We are grieving and politics has nothing to do with this," he said at a separate service held at the school where Lushchenko worked.

Lushchenko was among at least three crash victims laid to rest across RussiaThursday, with funerals also taking place in Saint Petersburg and in the Pskovregion of northwestern Russia.

On September 30, Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria, claiming it wanted to rout Islamic State jihadists but the West accuses Moscow of being more focused on propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad and on attacking moderate rebels.

The US and its allies have said Moscow's strikes in Syria are a mistake. Analysts had earlier warned they could cause blowback in the form of Islamist attacks against Russians.

Independent military expert Pavel Felgenhauer suggested that the Kremlin will keep denying any likely links to Islamists.

"But they won't be able to hush this up like in Soviet times although this is very unpleasant for the Kremlin."


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