Russia to discard Soviet-era airliners after crash

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In this image taken from video footage of AMVID via APTN, flames rise from the wreckage of a Tu-134 plane which crashed on a highway in Petrozavodsk, northwestern Russia, early Tuesday, June 21, 2011. The passenger jet crashed in heavy fog and burst into flames late Monday on the highway, just short of a runway whose fog lights had failed, killing 44 people, officials said. (AP Photo/AMVID via APTN)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev says he wants Soviet-built airliners similar to the one that crashed this week to be retired starting next year.

The 31-year-old RusAir Tu-134 from Moscow crashed in heavy fog late Monday just moments before landing at the Petrozavodsk airport in Russia's northwest, killing 45. Seven people survived.

Medvedev said Thursday that pilot error appears to be the cause of the crash, but added that he ordered his transport minister to prepare for the withdrawal of all Tu-134s. Officials have said in the past that the aging planes should be withdrawn, but have not set a timetable before.

The twin-engined Tu-134, along with its larger sibling the Tu-154, has been the workhorse of Soviet and Russian civil aviation since the 1960s with more than 800 planes built.