Several killed as cargo plane crashes

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A Belarusian cargo plane crashed on Wednesday while trying to land in eastern Russia, killing all seven people on board, officials said.

The Soviet-built An-12 operated by Belarusian carrier Grodno crashed and caught fire near Irkutsk, eastern Siberia.

The Belarus Investigative Committee, the top state investigative agency, said there were seven people on board and all of them died in the crash.

Russian news reports said the plane crashed while making a second approach after failing to land in a first attempt. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Belarusian officials said the crew consisted of three Belarusians, two Russians and two Ukrainian nationals.

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The aircraft was flying from Bilibino in the Chukotka region in Russia’s northeast and made a stopover in Yakutsk before continuing to Irkutsk.

The Belarussian transport ministry said the plane was completing a go-around in “difficult weather conditions”.

Video footage from the scene showed rescuers battling to put out the flames, illuminated by torchlight in pitch black, snowy conditions. The local branch of the Russian Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case over violation of transport safety rules.

Antonov aircraft were manufactured during the Soviet era and are still used throughout the former Soviet Union for civilian and military transport. They have been involved in a number of accidents in recent years.

Once notorious for accidents, Russia’s major airlines have shifted from ageing Soviet aircraft to more modern planes.

But poor maintenance and lax safety standards persist, and the country has recently seen several deadly air disasters.

In September, six people died when an An-26 transport aircraft crashed outside the far eastern city of Khabarovsk.

Meanwhile, in July, an An-26 flying over the Kamchatka Peninsula crashed, killing all 28 people on board.

The An-12 is a four-engine turboprop cargo plane designed in the 1950s. Hundreds have been built and many remain in service in Russia, other ex-Soviet countries and other nations around the world.