Russians seek answers as burial of aircraft victims begins

Kremlin urges patience until results of investigation into downing available

Relatives grieve by the coffin of Nina Lushchenko (60), a victim of the Russian MetroJet Airbus A321 disaster,  during a funeral service at a church in Velikiy Novgorod on Thursday. Photograph: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Relatives grieve by the coffin of Nina Lushchenko (60), a victim of the Russian MetroJet Airbus A321 disaster, during a funeral service at a church in Velikiy Novgorod on Thursday. Photograph: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

 

Russia began burying some of those 224 killed in a weekend plane crash over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, an event that could affect strong public support for the Kremlin’s air strikes in Syria if it turns out to have been an Islamist bomb attack.

In St Petersburg, the intended destination of the doomed Metrojet Airbus A321, friends and loved ones bade farewell to Alexei Alexeyev (31), who had been returning from a holiday in Sharm al-Sheikh in the Russian-operated plane.

Work colleagues said Mr Alexeyev and a Belarussian colleague had been given the trip to Egypt as a reward for their efforts at work.

On Thursday, they watched as he was buried in a quiet ceremony in the birch-lined Bogoslovskoye Cemetery northeast of central St Petersburg.

No returning

She said she did not know which of the crash theories to believe.

An arm of Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The British government has said it suspects an Islamist bomb plot and has grounded flights to the airport. A source close to the investigation has said a technical fault could have caused a mid-air explosion.

The Kremlin, which launched air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria on September 30th, has said everyone needs to wait for results of the official investigation.

The findings could affect public opinion, which so far has been strongly behind the Syrian campaign.

Public opinion

On St Petersburg’s sweeping Palace Square, on to which the Winter Palace faces, stacks of flowers and children’s toys to commemorate the victims piled up around a central monument.

Visitors had left poems as well as messages of support to loved ones. Among them was a note marking the passing of Mr Alexeyev.

“In sacred memory,” it read. “The criminals should answer for this. The reason [for his death] is the war in Syria.”

Some said they had never been convinced of the merit of Russia’s Syria intervention in the first place.

“The operation in Syria has always been in question for me,” said Denis, a doctor, standing among the crowds. “That hasn’t changed.”

Ms Vinogradova said she wanted to see tougher security checks introduced at airports in foreign countries, a sentiment echoed by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev who ordered transport ministry officials to begin talks with their foreign counterparts to bring in new controls.

In the ancient city of Veliky Novgorod, 100 miles south of St Petersburg, another victim, Nina Lushchenko (60), was also buried after a service in a whitewashed church.

– (Reuters)