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    PRESIDENT PUTIN OFFERS CONDOLENCES OVER ROAD ACCIDENT IN FINLAND

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    MOSCOW, March 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences to his Finnish counterpart, Tarja Halonen, over yesterday's bus crash.

    "The is a furthermore bitter accident as it injured and killed a lot of school children, whose life has only begun. I want my deepest condolences to be conveyed to the near and dear of the victims, while my wishes to get well for the injured," reads the president's telegram.

    Twenty-seven people were killed and 15 received injuries of different degrees of gravity when a bus and a truck crashed in Central Finland yesterday.

    The accident took place near the town of Aanekoski. Police say the bus, carrying some 40 passengers from Helsinki and Tampere, collided into a truck laden with paper at about 2 a.m. The passengers were mainly teenagers from 14 years of age on. They were en route for the Ruukka mountain ski resort.

    Finland has declared official mourning over the death of 27 people in the accident.

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