Kiev Court: Proof Lacking That Missile Downed Russian Airliner

Kiev's Appeals Court rejects petition by Israeli families over deaths of relatives on plane.

Russian investigators failed to prove a Ukrainian missile brought down a Russian passenger jet plane in October 2001, a Ukrainian court in Kiev said Tuesday, upholding an earlier ruling.

Four Israeli families had filed a lawsuit seeking compensation after the crash of the Tu-154 jet belonging to Sibir airlines, now called S7, while it was flying from Tel Aviv to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. The plane went down in the Black Sea, killing all 66 passengers and 12 crew members.

Investigators from the Interstate Aviation Committee, or IAC, an air safety group linking 12 ex-Soviet republics, later determined that the plane had been unintentionally shot down by a missile fired by Ukrainian forces during military exercises on the Crimean Peninsula.

But Kiev's Appeals Court rejected the Israeli families' appeal.

The plane was carrying mostly Russian-born Israeli immigrants headed back to Russia to visit relatives. The four Israeli families were seeking $1.1 million each from the Ukrainian government.

The court decision challenges the account of the crash widely accepted in Russia, and could anger Moscow, which dominates the IAC. The group investigated the accident on Russia's behalf.

The court, which did not consider what caused the crash, has several days to release an explanation for its ruling.

But a lawyer representing the Ukrainian government asserted that the plane was not downed by a missile.