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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigators Scrutinize Il-18's Flight Recorders

Investigators on Wednesday examined the flight recorders of a chartered turboprop that crashed with 27 people on board en route to Moscow from the northern Siberian town of Khatanga but said they were not ready to say what caused the accident.

Khatanga's mayor discounted a theory that a business dispute was to blame.

The Il-18 operated by IRS-Aero came down late Monday night about 250 kilometers north of Moscow in a Tver forest. Local residents said they heard an explosion about the time of the crash.

Rescue workers on Tuesday retrieved the plane's flight recorders and the remains of the 18 passengers and nine crew from debris strewn over 1.5 kilometers.

"We have examined all three recorders, but we are still analyzing them," said Viktor Trusov, an investigator at the Interstate Aviation Committee.

Aviation experts say an explosion may have taken place aboard the plane, pointing to the scattered wreckage, reports from residents and the calm manner of the pilots in the moments before the crash.

Russian media reports suggested that a business dispute may be to blame.

The plane was carrying the father of Khatanga businessman Oleg Kucherenko, who had charted the plane.

Also on board were the head of the Khatanga Aviation Enterprise, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, and his deputy, Vyacheslav Gyrlya.

The enterprise runs the Khatanga airport and operates regional flights.

TV6 television, citing unnamed sources at the Khatanga Aviation Enterprise, reported the airport had recently come under pressure from unspecified powerful interest groups in the nearby Taimyr Peninsula. TV6 also said the company was running a lucrative tour for Western tourists.

Khatanga Mayor Nikolai Fokin ruled out a terror attack.

"This is all rubbish -- those were wonderful people and there haven't been any threats against them," Fokin said in a telephone interview.

Fokin said Ovchinnikov and Gyrlya were flying to Moscow on a business trip.

They were to visit the Property Ministry to discuss spinning off noncore assets in the aviation enterprise such as residential housing and a power plant, he said. They were also to meet with travel agencies to promote a tourist route to the North Pole that the company had been operating for a decade.

Khatanga Aviation Enterprise officials said they were not ready to discuss the crash.

Kucherenko was unavailable for comment.

Fokin said Kucherenko owns a restaurant and two stores in Khatanga and heads Syndassko, a state-owned agriculture company.

Kucherenko chartered the Il-18 aircraft this year to fly residents to southern destinations and ship supplies to Khatanga, Fokin said.

IRS-Aero said the aircraft was in top-notch condition.

IRS-Aero head Vladimir Kotelnikov said he was at a loss to explain the crash and was waiting for investigation results.