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Missile May Have Hit Russian Plane

October 4, 2001

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A missile fired during a military training exercise in Ukraine appears to have accidentally brought down a Russian airliner flying from Israel to Siberia, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The plane crashed into the Black Sea with at least 77 aboard.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the land-based surface-to-air missile was fired from the Crimean region of Ukraine. Ukraine is the only country known to be conducting military exercises in the Black Sea area, the official said.

The downing of the airliner appeared to be accidental, officials said.

A second U.S. military official said the Pentagon is attempting to clarify exactly what has happened. The officer said the incident did not appear to be a collision of two aircraft.

Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, asked if the Pentagon had any explanation, declined to comment.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said terrorism could be the cause.

``A civilian aircraft crashed today and it is possible that it is the result of a terrorist act,″ Putin told a meeting of visiting European justice ministers in Moscow.

Bush administration officials were in almost immediate contact with their counterparts in Moscow in an attempt to determine whether there was a connection between the explosion and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States or U.S. plans to retaliate.

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