NOVGOROD, Russia (AFP) - Russia on Thursday (Nov 5) began to bury the first victims of the plane crash in Egypt as Britain and the United States said the jet might have been brought down by a bomb.
Several hundred relatives and friends gathered in the city of Veliky Novgorod, around 200km south of Saint Petersburg, to bid farewell to Nina Lushchenko, a 60-year-old school employee.
Ms Lushchenko was one of the 244 people who died in the crash as she travelled from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg, in what was Russia's deadliest aviation incident.
Both Britain and the United States said the crash might have been caused by a bomb.
Moscow and Cairo both dismissed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants' initial claim that it brought down the Airbus A-321 in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula.
But the militants on Wednesday repeated the claim they downed the jet, an apparent act of revenge for Moscow's decision to launch a bombing campaign in Syria on Sept 30.
Friends and relatives at the funeral said they did not want to assign blame and would like to steer clear of politics.
"There's no need to speak about politics right now. What does it have to do with this?" one of the relatives, Mr Alexander Afanasyev, 50, told AFP.
"We are grieving and politics has nothing to do with this," he said at a service at the school where the woman worked.
Another mourner, Mr Semyon Gerasimenko, struck a similar chord. "I don't know who is guilty, what can I say? They say it's a bomb," he said after a separate ceremony at the local church.
"What do Putin's policies have to do with this? Is it now necessary to consult every terrorist so that they do not plant a bomb and to do what they say?" Local authorities said 15 residents of Veliky Novgorod, including a child, were among the crash victims.
Another victim of the crash, Mr Alexei Alekseyev, 31, was being laid to rest in Russia's second city Saint Petersbug.
On Sept 30, Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria, saying it needed to target ISIS militants, but the West has accused Moscow of seeking to prop up the regime of Mr Bashar al-Assad and hitting moderate rebels.