Crashed Russian plane 'failed to train pilots'

The Russian airline owned by media mogul Alexander Lebedev failed to ensure that the pilots of a plane that crash-landed in December underwent emergency simulator training, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Russia's aviation agency has already suspended the operations of the Red Wings airline after one of its aircraft careered off the runway of a Moscow airport on December 29 and smashed into a highway.

Five crew members were killed and further loss of life was only prevented by the fact that the plane was flying without passengers.

"An enquiry has established that the crew did not undertake training on a flight simulator concerning warning systems about the approach of the ground and a collision," Moscow region first deputy transport prosecutor Murad Kekhlerov said, quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.

He said that the company had been informed it had violated Russian law. Investigators had previously said that the most likely explanation for the crash were bad brakes or a misfiring reverse engine.

The Red Wings catastrophe is another legal headache for Lebedev, who part-owns Russia's most critical opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and whose son Evgeny Lebedev owns Britain's The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.

He is also facing charges of assault and hooliganism for a bizarre attack where he punched a fellow Russian tycoon during a televised talk show.