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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Backs Defense Minister

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on Thursday refused to accept his defense chief's resignation over the deadly air show crash in Lviv, while the mayor of the devastated city called for an end to televised broadcasts of the crash.

Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko tendered his resignation to Kuchma following Saturday's crash of an Su-27 fighter jet at an air show in the western Ukrainian city. The plane plowed into a crowd, killing 83 people and injuring 116 others.

"I have not accepted the resignation of the defense minister and have suggested that he continue his work," said Kuchma at a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the Ukrainian navy.

Shkidchenko, who was on vacation at the time of the crash, appealed to Ukrainians for forgiveness. "The armed forces feel guilt. We ask all Ukrainians for forgiveness," Shkidchenko said.

He said the Su-27 jet crashed because the pilots, who ejected safely from the plane, failed to carry out orders.

Kuchma said the air force should never have spent its meager funds on the display and promised that those responsible would be punished. "How is it possible to understand when the army, working with insufficient funds, completing difficult work for our countrymen, spends its money not on raising the defense capability of the state ... but on a entertainment show?" Kuchma said. "I want to note that the guilty must be punished. And just those, those with direct and full responsibility for the tragedy, not the second-class, little men," he said.

Ukrainian air force chief Viktor Strelnykov, and Petro Shulyak, the head of the armed forces, were sacked after the disaster. The prosecutor general detained four top military officials on Sunday for negligence, saying serious errors on their part had contributed to the crash. A military court ruled there was not enough evidence to arrest and charge Strelnykov but said it had increased his detention period to 10 days to continue an investigation.

Eight of the victims have not been identified, and funerals are still being held for those who have been identified.

Lviv's mayor, Liubomyr Bunyak, urged the media to stop broadcasting television footage and photos of the crash and its mutilated victims.

Health officials in Lviv said they were busy with a constant stream of people -- either crash witnesses or those who watched it on television -- who felt traumatized by the disaster. (Reuters, AP)