Ukraine cargo plane crashes in northern Greece, crew killed

ATHENS, July 17 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian cargo plane carrying explosives from Serbia to Bangladesh crashed late on Saturday near the northern Greek city of Kavala, killing the crew on board, Serbian authorities and Meridian Airlines said on Sunday.

Drone footage from the scene showed smoldering debris from the Antonov An-12 strewn across fields. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said there were eight crew members on board, all of whom were Ukrainian citizens.

Ukraine-based Meridian Airlines, which operated the plane, said all crew members were killed in the crash. read more

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Serbia’s defense minister said the plane was carrying 11.5 tonnes of cargo. He said the buyer of the goods was the Ministry of Defense of Bangladesh.

Deniz Bogdanovic, general director of Meridian, confirmed Serbia’s account of events. “This is not related to Ukraine or Russia,” Bogdanovich told Reuters by phone.

Eyewitnesses said the plane fell into a ball of fire before exploding on impact in the maize fields around midnight local time. Earlier, the pilot claimed an engine problem and requested an emergency landing.

Greek authorities could not provide information on the plane’s cargo or crew. A special disaster response unit and army experts were dispatched to the spot, while local authorities imposed a curfew in the area.

Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the cargo included incendiary mortar rounds and practice rounds. It took off from Nis, Serbia at 1840 GMT on Saturday.

“The plane was carrying 11.5 tons of goods manufactured by our defense department. The buyer is the Bangladesh Ministry of Defense,” Stefanovic said.

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He said the plane’s cargo belonged to the Serbian company Valir, a company registered to carry out foreign trade activities of armed military equipment and other defense products.

The plane’s signal was lost after the pilot requested an emergency landing from Greek aviation authorities due to engine trouble, Greek state TV ERT reported.

Amateur video footage uploaded to showed the plane descending rapidly in flames before hitting the ground in what appeared to be an explosion.

“I wonder how it didn’t fall on our houses,” one witness, Amelia Sabdanova, told reporters. “It was full of smoke, there was a noise I can’t describe, and it went over the hill. It went over the hill and came back and crashed into the fields.”

A senior source at Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission denied initial reports that the plane was bound for Jordan. State news agency Petra reported on Sunday that the source said its flight itinerary included a refueling stop at Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport at 9:30 pm (0630 GMT).

Serbia’s defense minister said it was scheduled to make stops in India at Riyadh and Ahmedabad before heading to Dhaka.

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Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Ivana Sekularac, Tom Balmforth, Max Hunder, Michele Kambas, Thanasis Elmazis and Yasmin Hussein; Editing by Reisa Kasolowski and Jane Merriman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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