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Duma at Govt Hour to hear report on recent transport accidents

September 20, 2011, 2:00 UTC+3

Chairman of the lower house told that the heads of the Federal Air Transport Agency and Federal Service for the Oversight of Transport are also invited to the meeting

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MOSCOW, September 20 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin on Tuesday within an unscheduled Government Hour of questions and answers will answer questions of deputies of the State Duma lower house of parliament concerning the recent transport catastrophes – with the Bulgaria ship and Yak-42 plane near Yaroslavl. Chairman of the lower house Boris Gryzlov told reporters that the heads of the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) and Federal Service for the Oversight of Transport (Rostransnadzor) Alexander Neradko and Alexander Kasyanov are also invited to the meeting on Tuesday.

“The discussion will be rather serious,” the speaker warned. “But we (United Russia) will not put the question so that to demand resignation of the minister,” he said.

However, the head of the United Russia faction in the Duma admitted that the situation in the transport sphere “is quite difficult,” and the parliamentarians have to “radically deal with the problem.” “It concerns not just the transport minister, but the industry as well. There are problems associated with the training of pilots and ship captains,” he said.

Earlier, deputies from the opposition repeatedly demanded Levitin’s resignation. So, Communist faction member Nikolai Kolomeitsev has called for his immediate resignation. The leader of the LDPR faction Igor Lebedev also said that “we constantly find the ‘scapegoats,’ but the leaders be held responsible.” “It is necessary to dismiss not only Levitin, but also his deputies. We need to change radically the whole system,” he said. The position of the Just Russia party was again announced at a press briefing on Monday by the party leader Sergei Mironov. “Our faction demands and will insist on Levitin’s resignation,” he promised. “We believe that a series of transport disasters suggests that the Ministry represented by its head cannot cope with its responsibilities, and so he should resign,” the politician stressed.

The transport minister last time spoke in the Duma on February 8 also within an urgently called Government Hour in connection with a terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport. Together with him the heads of all law enforcement agencies made reports to the lawmakers.

The Yak-42D plane of the Yak-Service airline with the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team that was heading for Minsk crashed near Yaroslavl on September 7. As many as 44 people were killed in the catastrophe. After the tragedy Rostransnadzor announced inspection of all aircraft of this type, operated by Russian airlines. One of the two survivors, Alexander Galimov, died five days later in hospital. The crash is under investigation.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which was a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s top league, was on its way to Minsk, Belarus, in order to start the 2011–12 season. All players from the main roster plus four from the team’s youth team were on board at the aircraft. Due to the tragedy, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl chose to cancel their participation in the 2011–12 KHL season. The club will instead participate in the 2011–12 season of the Russian Major League (VHL), the second-ranked ice hockey league in Russia after the KHL, starting in December 2011, and will automatically be qualified for the VHL playoffs. The KHL suspended its season-opening game already in progress and postponed the start of the season by one week.

The flight recorders were recovered on 8 September 2011, according to Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin, and sent to Moscow for examination. The fuel supply used for the plane was seized, and samples taken for analysis to determine if substandard fuel was used. The Investigative Committee commented that pilot error and mechanical malfunction were considered the two most likely causes for the crash. One question to be investigated is why the pilots continued to attempt the take-off, rather than use emergency braking. The pilots were experienced. Captain Andrei Solontsev had 6,900 hours of flight experience, 1,500 on Yak-42s, and first officer Sergei Zhuravlyov 15,000 hours, although only 420 on the Yak-42, according to Okulov.

The Bulgaria diesel-electric ship built in Czechoslovakia in 1955, sank on July 10 in the Kuibyshev reservoir area. The vessel, en route to Kazan, sank within minutes 3 kilometres from the shore at a depth of 22 metres. At the time of the wreck the ship was carrying 201 people, 122 of them, including 28 children, were killed, 79 people were rescued.

On 10 July 2011, Bulgaria was traveling in Tatarstan on the Volga River when she was caught in a storm and sank in several minutes at about 13:58 Moscow time (09:58 UTC), several hours after beginning her cruise.

Survivors say that during the cruise, Bulgaria encountered stormy weather, and listed sharply to starboard. This was apparently compounded by the captain trying to turn the boat around, and soon water rushed into the vessel through portholes that had been opened because the ship had no air conditioning. According to a survivor, the sinking came without warning, and the vessel “listed to starboard ... and capsized and sank.” The boat sank within minutes, plunging nearly 20 metres (66 ft) to the river bed. The sinking occurred about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from shore, in the Kamsko-Ustyinsky District.

As of 25 July 2011, the officially confirmed death toll is at 122, with all bodies found so far identified. On 11 July 2011, a government official from the Ministry of Emergency Situations said that the likelihood of finding additional survivors was slim, leaving a presumed total of up to 129 dead. At the time of the incident, Bulgaria passenger's count is estimated to have been at 201, though she was only rated to carry 120.

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