A plane belonging to Russian airline Kogalymavia, flying from Sharm-el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, crashed in the northern Sinai Peninsula on October 31. All 217 passengers and 7 crewmembers on board were killed in the crash.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Before we start discussing matters concerning work at the crash site, I want to once again express my condolences to the victims’ families and relatives. This is a terrible tragedy and we are most certainly with you at this time with all our hearts and souls.
I want to thank the people of St Petersburg for the way they have responded. The whole country has seen this, everyone in Russia, and I want to thank you for your words of sympathy and condolence. In such tragic hours, it is certainly very important to feel the support of those close to you and know you have the entire country’s sympathy over this terrible disaster.
I know that the state commission has begun its work in accordance with all the rules. You returned from Egypt last night. I want to hear about the work, how you have organised contact with your partners in Egypt and with representatives of other countries, who have expressed their desire and willingness to assist in investigating this crash.
We certainly must do everything to get an objective picture of events, find out what happened, and make the appropriate response.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, as you instructed, the Prime Minister set up a government commission on the day the crash took place to coordinate the work of the federal executive authorities, the Emergency Situations Ministry and the headquarters working in St Petersburg with our agencies abroad, including our embassy in Egypt and also the Egyptian government and the aviation authorities.
The commission’s members flew to Egypt that same day. Yesterday, we worked at the crash site. Visual observation has established that the aircraft, which belonged to airline Kogalymavia, left Sharm-el-Sheikh at 6.51am on October 31, and after 23 minutes of normal flight, it came apart in the sky and the wreckage is scattered over an area of around 20 square kilometres, in an ellipsis of 8 by 4 kilometres.
The emergency work and search for the victims’ bodies has been organised in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities and Egypt’s armed forces, and I want to say that this cooperation has been exemplary and of a very high standard. We have received assistance in all necessary areas.
The first Emergency Situations Ministry plane left Cairo for St Petersburg yesterday, and this morning arrived with the first bodies of the crash victims. A second plane will leave today. All of the agencies concerned are working in coordination. The Healthcare Ministry, the Labour and Social Protection Ministry, the Interior Ministry – everyone is working round the clock.
We are working together with the headquarters in St Petersburg, where psychological support has been organised for the victims’ families. In accordance with the current laws, each passenger’s family will receive a compensation payment of 2 million rubles, and also an additional 25,000 rubles.
Ingosstrakh, the company that had insured the passengers, has already said that it will organise fast-track payment of this money. The company will pay the first 100,000 within 24 hours of receiving the application, and will pay the rest within a month if there are no court proceedings or legal claims.
Victims’ identification is underway in St Petersburg’s morgues now. DNA samples have been taken from all family members. In cases where it is impossible to identify the bodies, identification will be done rapidly through DNA analysis. All of the necessary work involved, including with help from other regions, will be completed in quick time.
Vladimir Putin: We know that this area sees periodic clashes between the Egyptian armed forces and fighters from various terrorist groups. I therefore ask you to take all necessary precautions during work at the site.
As I understand from your report, our Egyptian partners are providing all necessary help in organising this work.
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, including with the armed forces’ active and large-scale involvement.
Some of the government commission members have stayed behind to work at the site. The search effort is still underway and will continue for as long as it takes to collect all of the wreckage and find the victims’ remains.
Vladimir Putin: The minister briefed me on this work yesterday. As you are the head of this working group, I want to say that of course this work must continue until we are sure that this stage is complete. There is certainly no question of ending it ahead of time for reasons of pure formality. There is the matter of organising work and contact with officials from other countries too.
Maxim Sokolov: In accordance with annex 12 to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the country where the event happened, in other words, the Arab Republic of Egypt, is responsible for organising the technical investigation.
Countries with an active role are, firstly, the country operating the aircraft, Russia, in other words, then the country where the aircraft is registered, in this case, Ireland, and the country where the aircraft was manufactured, France, as the aircraft was an Airbus. These countries will all take part in the investigation commission. Countries whose citizens were killed in the crash can also be involved. In this case, this is Belarus and Ukraine.
We are already working together with the Egyptian aviation authorities on the investigation now. The plane’s black boxes were retrieved on the day of the crash. They have suffered only minor damage. Soon, once all of the different representatives taking part in the investigation have arrived, the decoding work will begin.
We are also working actively with the air traffic control services and aviation authorities of countries in the disaster zone – the Turkish authorities and the aviation authorities in Cyprus and Israel. Of course, we will do everything possible to establish the causes of this disaster, working together with the experts and international specialists.
Vladimir Putin: The social issues need to be settled in full and as rapidly as possible within the current legal framework. I know that many regions have taken additional measures. Support them in this and give maximum attention to the victims’ families.
Maxim Sokolov: We will do everything we can. Of course, we will give maximum human attention to everyone who has lost family members in this disaster.