UEBERLINGEN, Germany — Switzerland acknowledged Friday that its air traffic controllers were at least partly to blame for the collision of a Russian charter jet and a cargo plane over Germany and admitted lapses in handling the aftermath of the crash, which killed 71 people.
At a memorial ceremony near the crash site in southern Germany, Swiss Transportation Minister Moritz Leuenberger sought to address Russian anger about early statements from Swiss air traffic control that appeared to blame the pilot of the Bashkirian Airlines plane, whose passengers included 45 children headed for a Spanish beach vacation.
"The confrontation with the terrible notion of being part of the cause of the death of 71 people led us into helpless initial reactions, to confused and confusing information, to lapses," Leuenberger said, expressing condolences for the victims on behalf of Switzerland. "Not every one of us found the right words."
Meanwhile, Swiss President Kaspar Villiger canceled plans to attend a funeral today in Russia for children killed in the collision after authorities said they could not guarantee his safety because of strong emotions in the region, the Swiss Embassy in Russia said.
Switzerland is ready to offer compensation for the victims and will cooperate fully in the German-led investigation into the July 1 crash, Leuenberger said at the German ceremony.
Immediately after the crash, the Swiss said they had told the Russian pilot several times to descend and received only one reply. German investigators said the Russian pilot received contradictory instructions from the on-board warning system and the Swiss control tower.