MOSCOW, Russia – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday ordered his government Sunday to shut down unreliable airlines after 43 people were killed in a chartered plane crash that wiped out a top hockey team.
The decision came as the nation mourned the latest in a string of deadly air accidents that earlier saw Medvedev request the removal from operations of Russia’s older Soviet-era jets.
A Kremlin spokeswoman said Medvedev instructed his government to draft measures by November 15 that would let the authorities “discontinue the operations of air carriers incapable of ensuring flight safety”.
A separate set of proposals to be submitted for parliamentary approval in December would raise penalties for air safety violations and allow inspectors to ground dangerous planes without court orders.
The 18-year-old Yak-42 plane crashed on takeoff Wednesday in the central Russian city of Yaroslavl. Those killed included 36 players and coaches of the local Lokomotiv hockey team.
The accident happened on the eve of Medvedev’s scheduled visit to the city and he vowed on paying homage at the crash site to reduce the number of air carriers in Russia as a safety precaution.
Official have thus far blamed the tragedy on pilot error or aircraft malfunction and believe the jet hit an airport antenna mast after having trouble climbing on takeoff.
The crash also claimed the lives of several former NHL stars and has had a profound effect on both Russian sports and global hockey.
Russia has delayed the start of its 2011-2012 season and has still not decided how to rebuild one of the country’s most popular teams.
An estimated 100,000 people paid their last respects to the team at a memorial service at its home arena on Saturday that was also attended by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
A service led by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was held earlier in the Minsk arena where Lokomotiv was due to have opened its season.
Fans in several European countries including Slovakia and the Czech Republic have also gathered in public squares to commemorate local players who died in the crash.