Ukraine pledges to compensate Israelis for crash

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Leonid Kuchma has promised that Ukraine will compensate the families of Israelis killed when a Ukrainian missile accidentally shot down a Russian passenger jet, officials said Sunday.

The Sibir Airlines Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea on Oct. 4 on its way from Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia, killing all 78 people aboard. Most of the passengers had recently emigrated from Russia to Israel.

Kuchma promised compensation during a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday, presidential spokesman Ihor Storozhuk said.

In Israel, Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar said Sharon "said that Ukraine has to find a way to compensate the families, and the president of Ukraine said that it will do so."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the ministry was satisfied by the announcement and would "open a diplomatic dialogue concerning all aspects of the tragedy."

Kuchma ordered Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna to organize collection of the compensation funds, Storozhuk said. He did not say where the money would come from or how much each family would receive.