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    About 140 Dalavia passengers still waiting to leave Khabarovsk

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    KHABAROVSK, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - Around 140 Dalavia passengers are still waiting to be put on flights out of the Russian Far East city of Khabarovsk, after cancellations that began on September 18, the cash-stricken airline said on Monday.

    The state-owned carrier suspended ticket sales last Friday after its bank accounts were frozen over a more than 240-million-ruble ($9.5-million) debt. The crisis followed mass delays of AiRUnion flights last month and the alliance's breakup.

    Dalavia said it had put about 160 delayed passengers on other airlines' planes from Khabarovsk to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky as of Monday, but that 17 passengers are still waiting to be flown to the city, and another 120 passengers are staying at the airport waiting for connecting flights to Magadan, also in the Far East.

    "All possible measures have been taken so that the passengers can fly to their destinations on Tuesday," the company, said adding that another 135 people are waiting for flights in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Magadan.

    The company said a total of 500 passengers remained affected by delays as of Monday morning, and that 70 passengers from delayed flights in Khabarovsk had been provided with hotel accommodation.

    The carrier said it is in talks with other carriers, including flagship national airline Aeroflot in Moscow, in efforts to secure seats for passengers. "We hope flights will be not be delayed for more than two days," Dalavia said.

    The Transportation Ministry has ordered an emergency operations center set up to arrange flights for stranded AiRUnion passengers to tackle the Dalavia crisis.

    Vitaly Vantsev, who heads the center, said that Aeroflot and Vladivostok Avia aircraft have begun taking Dalavia passengers, and that Moscow-Khabarovsk-Moscow flights will return to schedule by the end of the day.

    According to government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Dalavia executives have asked the government for 1.5 billion rubles ($59 million) in urgent investment "to restore cash reserves and renew the air fleet." They also asked for 8.500 metric tons of aircraft fuel.

    Dalavia's ex-general director, Valery Chichilimov, said as quoted by the paper that the unprecedented 40% fuel price rise since the start of this year and tough competition were main reasons behind the carrier's financial problems.

    Khabarovsk Region Governor Viktor Ivashev, however, told the paper the company could be intentionally pushed toward bankruptcy as part of plans to set up a new state-controlled air alliance, and pledged an investigation into the situation.

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