KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma accepted his defense minister's resignation Wednesday, nearly three weeks after a Russian airliner was accidentally shot down during military exercises.
Kuchma announced the departure of Oleksandr Kuzmuk and two of his top aides in a speech on national television.
The Tu-154 plane crashed into the Black Sea on Oct. 4 en route from Israel to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, killing all 78 people aboard.
Russian authorities at first suspected terrorism, but U.S. military officials said shortly after the crash that they believed the plane was accidentally hit by a Ukrainian missile fired during training exercises.
Ukrainian military officials at first denied responsibility. But later Kuzmuk admitted that he never had any doubts that the plane was hit by an S-200 missile and said he submitted his resignation immediately after the accident.
Kuchma had said he was waiting for the final results of a government investigation into the crash before making a decision on Kuzmuk.
Other departing officials include Kuzmuk's deputy and chief of air defenses, Volodymyr Tkachov, and Volodymyr Diakov, commander of the military training ground where the missile was launched.
Kuzmuk had been under pressure to resign since a separate accident in April 2000. A defective missile fired during exercises hit an apartment building near Kiev, the capital, killing three people.
Kuchma did not name a replacement for Kuzmuk.
Siberian Airlines has said it will demand that Ukraine pay $10 million in damages for the Oct. 4 crash.