Heartbreak as Russia mourns victims

2011-09-10 20:13

Yaroslavl - With mounds of flowers and rivers of tears, tens of thousands of people flocked to a memorial ceremony on Saturday for the victims of the Russian plane crash that devastated a top ice hockey team.

Mourners, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, poured into the team's arena in the western city of Yaroslavl to lay flowers near coffins containing the remains of players and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team.

Many were draped in the team's red, white and blue colours.

Wednesday's crash of a chartered Yak-42 jet killed 43 people and was one of the sports world's worst aviation disasters. Of the 45 people on board, 36 were Lokomotiv players, coaches and team officials, including many European and former NHL players.

The crash shocked Russia and the entire hockey community but emotions were especially raw in Yaroslavl, where the team's consistently strong performance in the Kontinental Hockey League was a source of great pride.

The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus, to play its opening game of the KLH season.

The sombre-faced Putin walked slowly across the arena, laying flowers at each of the coffins, and several KHL ice hockey squads travelled en masse to Yaroslavl to attend the ceremony.

Local police estimated the crowd at 100 000 people.