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8 Sep, 2011 08:59

People mourn for dead athletes, many visit embassies

Many people in Russia, Belarus, Latvia, the Czech Republic and other countries remain united in their grief over the tragic victims of the Yaroslavl jet crash which took the lives of an entire ice-hockey team.

As the Lokomotiv squad employed several top foreign players, their compatriots are coming to express their support and feelings for the deceased. The Russian top-flight club included three players from the Czech Republic and two Ukrainians, as well as athletes from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden. The new coach was a Canadian Stanley Cup winner.The Slovak embassy in Moscow has been crowded with people laying flowers and small notes. The national flag is at half-mast over the embassy. A special mourning book has also been opened to gather the thoughts of people. People in Slovakia are mourning the death of their icon, the captain of the national team and one of its top strikers, Pavol Demitra. “When I became the head coach of the Slovak national team, Pavol sent me a text to congratulate me. He said he would help me anytime I wanted. He was a great person and a great hockey player, he was a legend of Slovak ice hockey,” says Vladimir Vujtek, the head coach of the Slovak National Team. The Czech consul is now heading to the scene of the tragedy in Yaroslavl. Three Czech players died in the accident – Jan Marek, Karel Rachunek and Josef Vašíček. The national flag is also half-lowered over the Czech diplomatic mission in Moscow and mourning candles have been lit.“We want to thank the people of Russia on behalf of the Czech embassy for their support and solidarity at such a time. Our embassy has been inundated with flowers, people leave notes of sympathy for the dead atheletes,” said the spokesmen at the embassy.In the Czech capital, people gathered to remember the lost players. Hundreds have been laying flowers, chanting their names and lighting candles in their memory.“We have lost players in their prime, they were the hardcore of their national team,” says Slavomir Lener, a Czech Hockey official. “I knew them very well – even though they were playing abroad, still they were always trying to get better. They cared.”

Latvia's capital witnessed a funeral march for the victims of the Yak-42 crash too. Riga is mourning its favorite hockey son Karlis Skrastins. People carried flowers, candles, flags and other sporting paraphernalia. People in Minsk, Belarus, have been gathering at the ice-rink where the Lokomotiv team was to face their rivals Minsk Dinamo in their opening battle of the KHL season. Many are also visiting the Russian embassy in the Belarusian capital to express support over their neighbor’s tragedy.The telephone line at Sweden’s embassy in Moscow has been overwhelmed with calls of condolences with the death of Stefan Liv, the national team’s goalkeeper, the mission’s spokesperson informed. Many flowers are being laid at the doors as well. The embassy of Canada has not been left alone either. People are coming to leave flowers and notes to express their sympathy over the perished Brad McCrimmon, the Lokomotiv coach.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also expressed his condolences on arriving at the crash site near Tunoshna Airport. He laid down flowers at the place. In Yaroslavl, people streamed to the central church to pay tribute to the victims of the crash.The Russian Emergencies Ministry has published a list of passengers and crew on board the Yak-42 that crashed outside of Yaroslavl, killing at 43 people. The Yakovlev Yak-42 passenger plane crashed near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia, 270 kilometers north-east of Moscow on Wednesday. The majority of victims were members of the local ice hockey team Lokomotiv.