Serbian president says plane that crashed in Greece was not carrying hazardous materials

Belgrade, Serbia

The Serbian president said on Monday that the crash of a Ukrainian cargo plane over the weekend in northern Greece was a tragic accident but that it was not carrying hazardous materials.

Aleksandar Vucic was speaking at a press conference in the capital Belgrade over the Antonov An-12 cargo plane which took off from Serbia on Saturday night and crashed in a field near the city of Kavala, killing the eight Ukrainian crew members on board.

“Unfortunately it was a tragic accident, but there were no hazardous materials (on the plane). There were practice and ignition mines,” Vucic said.

The plane took off from Serbia and was heading for Bangladesh, Serbian authorities said.

Vucic said the plane from a Ukrainian company was chosen to transport ammunition from Serbia to Bangladesh because of sanctions against Russian and Belarus carriers.

He said he was also chosen because only Ukrainians have large, four-engine aircraft capable of carrying large loads and weapons.

The Antonov cargo plane, owned by Ukrainian company Meridian Ltd., took off from Nis airport in southern Serbia at 8:40 p.m. (1840 GMT) and was carrying around 11 tons of mines from Valir, a company Serbian private sector, at the Ministry of Defense of Bangladesh, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said at a press conference.

Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the plane had all necessary permits in accordance with international regulations, denying media reports that weapons were transported from Serbia to Ukraine during the flight .

Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions hours after the crash.

Greek authorities said the pilot requested permission to make an emergency landing due to engine failure, but the plane failed to reach the airport. A fire broke out in one of the plane’s engines in flight, which is believed to have caused the crash, officials said.

The plane crashed in farmland between two villages.

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