He declined to discuss the possible causes of the tragedy, but said that "the effects of the cyclone cannot be ruled out". Experts of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situation say that the possibility of a terrorist attack is not being considered.
According to preliminary data, the airliner carrying 160 passengers and 10 crew members ran into a thunderhead and was struck by lightning. Definitive conclusions can be made only after deciphering the data of the airborne recorders, which have not been found yet.
Apart from the relatives of the crash victims, a group of experts is flying to Donetsk from the "Aviacor" aircraft plant in Samara where the ill-fated TU-154 was built.
"We don't know yet what happened there, but I'm fully confident of the equipment's reliability, 100 percent confident that it happened through no fault of the equipment", the general manager of the "Aviacor" plant, Sergei Likharev, told journalists in Samara.
As for the possible causes of the accident, aviation experts say that TU-154 is a very reliable plane and one of the least vulnerable to lightning. Most often, an electric discharge does not lead to any significant damage, as it skirts around the fuselage. Powerful lightning may result in the appearance of tiny holes in the body, radome and wings, which, however, does not give rise to serious problems.
Experts of the British publication "The Times" assert that a strike by lightning is more likely to affect the operation of on-board equipment, which, however, is provided with a special protection system, should such cases occur. On several occasions the planes lost contact with the ground control or, which is much more serious, the so-called "artificial horizon" got disabled. As a rule, lightning may strike when the plane is passing through clouds, and the pilots may lose orientation and nose-dive the plane.
Taking into account all the circumstances, experts believe that the airliner crashed as a result of an off-normal situation caused by complex weather conditions. Some data indicate that there was a fire on board the plane, as the crew sent 4 mayday signals to ground control.