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Plane crash-lands on Russian highway; 44 die, 8 critically hurt; Poor weather cited as possible cause

Forty-four people were killed when a passenger jet crashed late Monday in northwestern Russia, news agencies said.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-Tass, citing Emergencies Ministry officials, reported that the RusAir plane crash-landed on a highway en route from Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk.

They reported eight people who survived the crash were hospitalized in critical condition in Petrozavodsk.

There was no immediate explanation for the crash, but the Interfax news agency quoted the airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky as saying there were "unfavorable weather conditions."

Russian news agencies said the plane crashed on its final approach to the airport in Petrozavodsk, landing a few hundred yards short of the runway. Petrozavodsk is in the in the province of Karelia, 400 miles northwest of Moscow.

The plane was a Russian-made Tu-134 jet, the Emergencies Ministry said, carrying 52 people, nine of whom were crew, the news agencies said.

They said Russian Premier League soccer referee Vladimir Pettay was among the victims. News agencies reported a Swedish victim along with Russians.

The ministry confirmed on its website that there had been an incident and posted a list of 43 passengers.

The Karelia branch of the Emergencies Ministry said radio contact with the pilot was lost at 23:40 local time (7:30 p.m. EDT). The black box flight data recorders had been recovered, the news agencies said.

Earlier reports put the death toll at 40.

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