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Greece to protest to Serbia over Ukrainian cargo plane crash

burning debris at crash site of an antonov an 12 cargo plane owned by a ukrainian company, in kavala
A drone view shows the burning debris at the crash site ENA Channel/Handout via REUTERS

Greece will protest to Serbia for not being timely informed about the munitions cargo on board a Ukrainian aircraft which crashed near the northern city of Kavala on Saturday night, diplomatic sources said on Monday.

The Antonov An-12 carrying 11.5 tonnes of defence products made in Serbia, including mortar and training shells, came down in a ball of flames, exploding on impact in corn fields at about 2000 GMT on Saturday. Its eight Ukrainian crew members were killed.

Earlier, the pilot had reported engine trouble and was given permission for an emergency landing at Kavala but the aircraft’s signal was lost soon after the call at 1942 GMT.

Images from the scene showed smouldering debris from the aircraft, operated by Ukraine’s Meridian cargo airline, strewn in fields.

Serbia’s defence minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Sunday morning the plane’s cargo was made by Serbia’s defence industry. It had taken off at 1840 GMT on Saturday from Nis in Serbia and the buyer of the cargo was the defence ministry of Bangladesh.

“Greece’s ambassador in Belgrade will soon issue a demarche over the need for Greece’s prior notice by Serbia regarding the nature of the aircraft’s cargo,” a diplomatic source said.

Greek authorities cordoned off the site on Saturday and later banned people from moving around and advised residents to keep doors and windows shut, as firefighters with the special disaster response unit were investigating the area.

A fire brigade official said on Sunday morning that white dust was floating in the air. In the evening, Greek authorities said that tests showed the substances released in the air after the accident were not toxic or hazardous to public health.

Greek oppposition parties have accused the conservative government of not providing information on the cargo and urged it to investigate the incident further.

A prosecutor has launched an investigation into the accident. The bodies of the crew members will be examined by a coroner, according to state TV ERT.

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