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THE LOST CHILDREN; EXCLUSIVE Plane crash that robbed a Russian city of its youth.

Byline: BARBARA DAVIES

A MOMENT in time, a snapshot of happiness, a photograph to capture the end of the school year.

Darya Kozlova and her boyfriend Emil Gamaletdinov, school queen and king - talented, popular and in love.

Her hand curled over his, they ring out the last bell of the school year, cheered on by the classmates who have elected them to perform the traditional annual ritual.

Today, 15-year-old Darya is dead - one of 39 children from the Russian city of Ufa killed when their aircraft collided with a DHL cargo plane in the skies above the Swiss-German border.

The haunting pictures of every one of the lost children of Ufa are revealed for the first time today in the Daily Mirror.

Seventy-one people were killed in the crash. Of the 45 children who died, all but six were from Ufa.

Their smiling faces are a terrible reminder of the human cost of the tragedy and how merciless fate can be. Darya's 16-year-old boyfriend Emil is alive.

His visa was not ready, and he was waiting to catch a later flight to join Darya on the Costa Dorada in Spain, where she and her classmates were heading when tragedy struck almost a fortnight ago.

While the Russian authorities and Swiss air traffic control continue to argue over who was to blame for the catastrophe on July 1, the tiny Russian city of Ufa, in the foothills of the Urals, has been paralysed by grief.

Today, a memical service for the victims will be held in Ufa. The Ryssian foregine ministry has warned Swiss president Kaspar Villiger to stay away as tensions run high in the city. Locals were outraged by Swiss claims - later withdrawn - that the Russian pilot had failed to act quickly enough to avert tragedy. In stifling summer temperatures of more than 36 deg C, the city's people wander around the airless streets with vacant, wounded stares.

Parents of the dead children trail in and out of the city's government offices like ghosts, their faces as white as the stone buildings.

They fill in forms and collect a few treasured personal belongings.

Indilya Pushkaryova clutches two locks of hair from her 11-year-old daughter Yevgenya. Her husband holds the child's pyjamas.

On the city's red and white buses, in the Lada taxis, in the cafes and on the street, the conversation is of nothing else and the names of the dead are whispered again and again.

Ruslan Urazlin had recently won a school maths prize. His sister Karina was a straight-A student. The Spanish holiday was meant to be a treat - a reward for their hard work. Sofya Fedotova had been ill, and her parents hoped the sea air would improve her health.

The parents of Arsen Akhmetov had borrowed the $800 to send their son on the two-week trip and cancelled their own holiday. Ildar Asylgujin promised he would bring back souvenirs for his parents.

And Arsen Masagutov was a budding biologist who kept lizards and hoped to study new species in Spain.

The black, white and green BashkorRuslan and Karina UrazlinThe trip was to have been a reward for Ruslan, 15, and sister Karina, 16tostan flag is flying at half-mast across the city. Black ribbons are tied from every conceivable flag-pole.

In the open-air Vesvna cafe just off Ufa's main street, a waiter, is almost lynched when he places a tape of Russian pop music in a Japanese ghetto-blaster and hits the Play button.

He apologises to his outraged customers and tunes the radio to the local station, which is playing a continuous stream of sad classical music.

At the city's main cinema, performances of Men In Black, The Time Machine and Showtime have been cancelled, along with a Russian folk festival and the Ufa leg of the Russian cycling championship.

The annual summer funfair has been abandoned. The Ferris wheel, which a week ago was packed with children clutching ice creams, is motionless.

United in death as they played and studied together in life, the broken bodies of 22 of the 39 Ufa children have already been buried side-by-side in the city's Yuzhnoye cemetery. Their parents, almost physically diminished by their collective loss, clutched photographs of their loved ones and wept over their mass grave.

At the time the children's bodies were finally laid to rest, thousands of people packed into the city's main square to pay their own respects, bringing candles and flowers. "I can't believe this has happened to us," says the grandfather of tragic young Arsen Akhmetov. "Why has God done this to us?"

Arsen turned 15 last month, and his cousin Dinara Khismatullina, also 15, was killed too. The freshly turned soil covering their coffins has been carpeted in flowers, among them wreaths laid by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Outside Gymnasium No 3, where Darya and Emil rang their school bell on June 20, a copy of the Respublika Bashkortostan newspaper lies discarded in the street.

The headline is just visible on the crumpled front page: "We'll remember them for ever in our hearts."

b.davies

@mirror.co.uk

Arsen Masagutov, 15

He wanted to study lizards in Spain

CAPTION(S):

Ildar Asylgujin, 14; Yelena Asylova, 9; Bulat Biglov, 15; Dinis Dinislamov, 13; Zoya Fedotova, 14; Veronika Savchuk, 15; Albina Gazizova, 14; Leysan Mambetova, 14; Ildar Murtazin, 9; Valerie Novikova, 14; Maksim Shmelkov, 15; Marat Subkhankulov, 16; Dinar Shagimukhametov, 15; Dinara Khismatullina, 15; Laisan Gimaieva, 15; Alina Khannanova, 11; Svetlana Tupayeva, 15; Irina Yuldashbayeva, 14; Ruslan Yusupov, 19; Kirill Degtyaryev, 15; Yevgenya Pushkaryova, 11; Yelena Nelyubina, 15; Elina Musagitova, 12; Darya Kozlova, 15; At a graduation ball with boyfriend Emil, who missed the flight; Maria Minchenkova, 15; Gulnaz Nizametdinova, 14; Mikhail Melnichuk, 16; Stanislav Litvinov, 11; Artur Khammatov, 10; Sofya Fedotova, 15; Aleksandra Voitko, 13; Arsen Akhmetov, 15; Marsel Sultanov, 13; Zhanna Grigoryeva, 15; Igor Yefremov, 14; Gulnaz Zhiyanbayeva, 12; PILGRIMAGE: Families at the crash scene in Germany; DESERTED: Life has ground to a halt in the city of Ufa
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 13, 2002
Words:998
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