Israel, Ukraine Sign Agreement on Compensation for Russian Jet Victims

KIEV - Ukraine and Israel on Thursday signed an agreement on monetary compensation for relatives of the passengers killed when a Russian jet was shot down by a stray Ukrainian missile two years ago.

All 78 people aboard the Sibir Airlines Tu-154 passenger jet died when it crashed into the Black Sea on Oct. 4, 2001, en route from Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia. The plane was hit by a stray S-200 missile fired by Ukraine's navy during training exercises. Most of the victims were recent Russian immigrants to Israel.

"We have put now behind us a sad and unfortunate chapter in our history," said Justice Minister Yosef Lapid after the signing ceremony.

"We are returning to the good relations that have been characteristic of Ukraine and Israel ever since (Ukraine) established free democracy," he added.

Under the agreement, 101 relatives of 40 Israeli dead will receive monetary compensation which will be divided between the families according to Israeli legislation, Lapid said. The amount of compensation was not revealed.

Ukraine's First Vice Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov promised that the money would be paid "in the nearest future."

A similar compensation agreement is expected to be signed between Ukraine and Russia next week, Azarov said, adding that the Russian relatives would divide the sum equally.