DUSHANBE, August 23, Asia-Plus – Itar-Tass – All 171 passengers and crew reported to have been on board a Russian airliner died when it crashed yesterday afternoon near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry says a lightening strike may have caused the crash.  Emergency source says the plane was caught in a thunderstorm and hit by a lightning strike.  A Soviet-designed TU-154 fell from an altitude of 10,000-11,000 meters.

Pulkovo Airlines officials say the dead included 39 children. 

The plane was en route from the southern Russian resort of Anapa to St. Petersburg.  Itar-Tass cited Leonid Belyayev, acting head of the St. Petersburg emergencies department, as saying that the plane was carrying out foreigners, including Dutch residents.  Some Russian media report the passengers also included citizens of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.