10/21/2014, 00.00
RUSSIA - FRANCE
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Private jet crashes in Moscow, the head of Total dies

by Nina Achmatova
Christophe de Margerie at the helm of the French oil giant since 2007. Always contrary to Western sanctions against Moscow, he was in Russia on an official visit. Yesterday he met with Prime Minister Medvedev.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The chairman of the Board of Directors of the French oil giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, 63, has died following the crash of a private Dassault Falcon 50 jet shortly after take-off from the Vnukovo airport in Moscow. The energy company has confirmed the news: along with the top manager all three crew members, all French citizens were also killed.  

According initial reports, on October 20around midnight, the aircraft was taking off from the terminal Vnukovo-3 when it collided with a snowplow and caught fire. The jet was headed to Paris. Initially, there was talk of a fifth victim, the driver of the snowplow, but this was later denied by the Investigative Committee, who say the man driving "was in a state of intoxication." The jet burst into flames and rescue teams were unable to save the people on board.

A criminal investigation was opened into the incident for "breach of security resulting in the death of two or more people." The Vnukovo press service said that the black boxes have been removed from the crash site; according to other sources, they are "in good condition". Still unclear if the vehicle was parked in a prohibited point of the runway or surprised as it was crossing. Russian prosecutors say their French counterparts will be invited to collaborate in investigations.

The head of the EU delegation in Russia, Vygaudas Usackas, as reported by Interfax, he has already sent his condolences to the relatives of the victims saying he was "saddened" by the incident.

According to Russian news agencies, de Margerie was in Russia on an official visit. He was at Gorki, just outside Moscow, yesterday for Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev's meeting with the Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC), which brings together the major foreign investors in the country.

Managing Director of Total since 2007 and its chairman since 2010, the top manager had spoken out repeatedly against the restrictive measures imposed by the USA and EU on Moscow for the Ukrainian crisis and which have hit the energy sector hard. Commenting on the partnership with Russian companies, after the introduction of sanctions, the CEO had assured that the projects in the Federation would not be changed and that the group was in no hurry to leave the country. In September, however, the Financial Times reported the news of the suspension of cooperation with Russia's Lukoil, Total, in western Siberia.

The French company has been present in Russia since 1989 and is one of the leading foreign investors, but future projects were frozen following the deterioration of relations between Moscow and the West after the demolition airliner Malaysian eastern Ukraine . According to remind the Russian media, de Margerie in recent months has led an intense lobbying Paris to unlock the delivery of the aircraft carrier Mistral to Russia blocked due to sanctions and after strong pressure from the United States.

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