Russian jet crash kills hockey team in stinging national tragedy
Russian jet crash Wednesday killed most of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team and follows a string of tragic airline accidents in Russia.
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Just over a year ago, a Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-154 carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and nearly 100 leading Polish dignitaries crashed on landing near the central Russian city of Smolensk, stirring up tensions in Polish-Russian relations that have yet to subside.Skip to next paragraph
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A number of other summer crashes involving aging Soviet aircraft have rattled Russian nerves and led the government to order most Tu-134 and An-24 planes, the workhorses of Russian regional aviation, to be grounded early next year. The Yak-42, a late Soviet design, was not on the banned list and is considered to be a generally reliable aircraft.
Experts say that even when the shock of the tragedy has worn off, the toll on Russians' already frayed national pride is likely to be steep.
"It erodes belief in the system, implants doubt that infrastructure is functioning properly, generates anxieties," he says. "When planes fall from the sky because they cannot fly, it hits everybody in a deep way."
"Tragedies like this increase public tensions and discontent with the existing state of things," says Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Levada Center, and independent Moscow-based public opinion agency.
Mr. Grazhdankin notes that the last years of the USSR were marked by a chain of tragic accidents – Chernobyl, the sinking of the Admiral Nakhimov cruise liner, and a massive train crash in the republic of Bashkortistan – that darkened the public mood and eroded confidence in the Soviet system.
"It's hard to judge the influence of this string of terrible events on political confidence, and much will depend on the reaction of Russian leaders," he says. "Taken separately, each such event can be forgotten, but when they happen one after another like this, then the impression remains and grows into a vague public discontent. If it doesn't end, it might erupt in very unexpected ways."