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Shroud of mystery envelops fatal flight

Shroud of mystery envelops fatal flight

The circumstances surrounding a large cargo aircraft transporting munitions from Serbia to Bangladesh that crashed and exploded on Saturday night in Kavala, northern Greece, killing all eight of its Ukrainian crew, remained unclear on Monday.

The cargo of about 11.5 tons, mainly Serbian-made mortars, was dispersed in the wider rural area of Antifilippon.   Experts are looking for answers to unravel the mystery behind the crash.

First among them is why a shipment of official arms sales from Serbia to Bangladesh was being transported in an obsolete, 50-year-old aircraft. The company managing the plane has virtual headquarters in Kiev and operates exclusively outside Ukraine (over which there is a no-fly zone). It appears to have offices in various locations, including Serbia, and it is completely unknown whether or how its aircraft were properly maintained.

Another question is whether Athens knew about the contents of the cargo. According to well-informed sources, the company had filed an application to fly over Greek territory in a document describing the route from Nis (Serbia) to Dhaka (Bangladesh) over a total of 10 countries. After flying over Serbia, North Macedonia and Greece, the aircraft was to move over the airspace of Turkey, Israel and Jordan, where it would make a stopover before continuing the flight over Saudi Arabia to the east. 

The same sources said the plan referred to the transport of ‘dangerous goods,’ which increases the cost to an airline operating such flights.  Sources told that already on Saturday night and Sunday morning, coordinated actions were taken by the prime minister’s diplomatic office in Athens and then by the General Staff of the Armed Forces at a technical level in order to provide immediate information on the content, so that Greek army officials would know what to expect. 

Another lingering question was whether Antonov had time to land, with the black box that was salvaged expected to provide answers. The aircraft’s signal shows that the pilot, although already aware of a problem with the engine, continued on a course over the Aegean Sea, east of Mount Athos, heading for Limnos, before deciding to turn north to Chrysoupolis airport in Kavala, as indicated by the Greek authorities as the closest. 

Sources have pointed out that the choice to head for Kavala rather than Thessaloniki was decisive, as a possible crash in the wider area of the densely populated city would have had more serious consequences.

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