Five Russian nuclear specialists were among the 44 passengers who died when a Tu-134 airliner crashed near Petrozavodsk, Russia on 20 June. The quartet had all worked on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, which the U.S. and Israel insist is involved in a covert plan to develop nuclear weapons for the Islamic republic, a charge that Iran strongly rejects.
A source at Russia’s atomic agency Rosatom, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Moscow’s Interfax news agency that virtually the entire top management of Gidropress, which is part of Rosatom, died in the crash.
They included Gidropress design bureau general designer Sergei Ryzhov, Gidropress deputy general director and chief designer Gennadii Baniuk and Gidropress chief designer and section head Nikolai Trunov and Gidropress specialist Valery Lalyn. According to the source, another crash casualty was the chief technology specialist at the Afrikantov Machine-Building Design Bureau in Nizhniy Novgorod, Andrey Trofimov.
The Russian engineers had also been involved in nuclear power plant projects in India, China, and Bulgaria. The experts were overseeing the final construction of the Bushehr plant and ensuring that it would be able to survive an earthquake.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper speculated that the Israeli intelligence services might have been involved in the crash, given Mossad’s targeting of Muslim nuclear facilities in the past. According to Rodger W. Claire, in his 2004 book, Raid on the Sun: inside Israel’s Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb, Mossad initially attempted to sabotage Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility prior to Israel’s June 1981 airstrike, which destroyed the site.
By. Charles Kennedy, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com