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EUROPEANS GIVE AEROFLOT A WIDE BERTH

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Russian International Airlines, the international branch of the old Soviet carrier Aeroflot, has seen European passenger volumes plummet 30 percent following the crash of a Russian-leased Airbus A-310 over Siberia in March, the company's deputy head said this week.

"The barrage of adverse publicity has already done a lot of damage to us," said Anatoly Brylov, deputy director general for legal affairs.The crash of the Airbus, which was leased by Aeroflot to fly its Moscow-Hong Kong route, killed 75 people, many of them Aeroflot pilots and their families going on vacation to the Far East.

There has never been an official explanation for the accident, but unofficial reports have said the aircraft's pilot was showing his children how to fly the plane just before it went into a deep dive and crashed.

Brylov said there are still many unanswered questions about the disaster, and he condemned "misinformation in the foreign press." He blamed "incompetent people or malcontents" for fueling Aeroflot's reputation for poor safety standards.

Brylov made the comments during a news conference Wednesday called to announce the company's operating results for the first six months of the year, which showed higher passenger volume and increased revenue over the previous year, despite the bad publicity.

The company's director general, Vladimir Tikhonov, said the airline carried 2 million passengers in the first six months of 1994 - 15 percent more than the same period last year - and boosted gross revenues 10 percent to 900 billion rubles ($425 million).

Tikhonov did not disclose how much profit the state-owned airline made, but he said profits had risen by 10 percent despite a 40 percent increase in fuel and maintenance costs in Russia.

"Those who know how difficult it is in the world of air carriers to increase profit margins can appreciate that figure," Tihkonov said.

He said the airline had expanded its routes to new destinations such as Miami and Orlando, Fla., and Sao Paolo, Brazil.