MOSCOW, November 28 (Itar-Tass) — Investigarors said the military had nothing to do with the disappearance of the An-2 plane with passengers on board in the Ural region in June.
"During the investigation into the criminal case, relatives of the An-2 passengers asked the Ural investigation department on the transport to check the information on the military's possible involvement in the disappearance of the plane with 12 passengers on board piloted by Khatip Kashapov," an Investigative Committee official told Itar-Tass.
"A check ascertained that air defense armaments in the 250 kilometer area around Serov's airfield had not been used. As of now, there is no information about the involvement of servicemen in the disappearance of the An-2 plane," the SK said.
Khatib Kashapov, a native of the town of Orsk, Orenburg region, took off on crop-duster An-2 without permission on June 11. It reportedly had up to 13 persons on board and the pilot, including the Serov road police chief, a road policeman, a guard, a pensioner, a businessman, a mobile phone seller and others.
The quality of fuel could not have caused the crash, investigators confirmed later.
Criminal proceedings were opened over the disappearance of the An-2 plane under Criminal Code article on "violation of aircraft operation regulations and traffic rules, which resulted in the death of two or more persons by negligence."
On October 16, the investigation into the criminal case was suspended pending additional information.
"That the search has stopped does not imply that the criminal probe will not be resumed. If we learn new details about the plane's disappearance, the probe will continue," senior public relations officer Marina Bubkina told Itar-Tass, noting that the An-2 passengers have not been listed as missing yet.
Under the law, the persons officially unaccounted for are those who have been missing for a year.
During the search, experts, relatives and investigators suggested many versions which were later not substantiated.
Initially, many believed that the plane had been downed by the military.
But chief of the 2nd Air Force and Air Defense command of the Central Military District, Maj-Gen Viktor Sevostyanov denied this information at a news conference. "We have nothing to do with this incident," Sevostyanov stated.
Gennady Cheurin, honorary arctic region expert, believes that the pilot was used to the steppe landscape, and hence might have lost his bearings in a natural anomaly in the region.
Regional police said in the evening of June 11, a group of persons drank alcohol before boarding the plane in Serov. Several cars were left behind in the airfield. Supposedly, they belonged to passengers. Under one of the versions, the group might have gone fishing or flown to a sauna in a neighboring region. The passengers' mobile phones did not answer.