Netanyahu offers condolences to Russia over plane crash
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Netanyahu offers condolences to Russia over plane crash

Amid his diplomatic fury over UN Security Council vote on settlements, PM makes diplomatic gesture to Moscow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, on November 30, 2015. (screen capture/YouTube)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, on November 30, 2015. (screen capture/YouTube)

The day after upbraiding the Russian ambassador over a UN Security Council vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday sent his sympathies to Moscow for a military plane crash in which 92 people are believed to have perished.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire Russian people following yesterday’s plane crash in the Black Sea,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The gesture came amid a diplomatic storm surrounding a vote by the United Nations Security Council that condemned Israeli settlement construction. Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council — including permanent member Russia — 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity. The US abstained, enabling the resolution to pass.

In response, 10 ambassadors were summoned, at Netanyahu’s instruction, to the Foreign Ministry for a stern talking-to over Friday’s vote and the prime minister reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision.

Netanyahu also lashed out at US President Barack Obama for not using the US veto to stop the resolution, and called in Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

UN Security council members Senegal and New Zealand do not have embassies in Israel. Venezuela and Malaysia do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Activities involving the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will be suspended, and the ambassadors of those countries will not be received at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, an official said according to a report from Haartez.

Russian rescue workers collect wreckage from the crashed plane at a pier just outside Sochi, Russia, December 25, 2016. (AP/Viktor Klyushin)
Russian rescue workers collect wreckage from the crashed plane at a pier just outside Sochi, Russia, December 25, 2016. (AP/Viktor Klyushin)

All 84 passengers and eight crew members on the Russian military’s Tu-154 plane are believed to have died Sunday morning when it crashed two minutes after taking off from the southern Russian city of Sochi. The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia’s world-famous military choir, nine Russian journalists and a Russian doctor known for her charity work in war zones.

The Russian plane was taking the Defense Ministry’s choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, to perform at a New Year’s concert at Hmeimim air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.

Emergency crews on Sunday found fragments of the plane about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the shore but a deputy defense minister told Russian news agencies that experts estimated the Tu-154 crash site at 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the shore.

By Monday morning, rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies as well as fragments of bodies. Those were flown to Moscow, where the remains will be identified.

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television to declare Monday a nationwide day of mourning.

The Tu-154 is a Soviet-built three-engine airliner designed in the late 1960s. More than 1,000 have been built, and they have been used extensively in Russia and worldwide. The plane that crashed Sunday was built in 1983, and underwent factory check-ups and maintenance in 2014, the Defense Ministry said.

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