Policeman stands at the site of a plane crash outside Petrozavodsk
A policeman stands at the site of a plane crash about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the runway at the airport outside the northern Russian city of Petrozavodsk June 21, 2011. At least 44 people were killed when a passenger plane broke up and caught fire on coming into land in heavy fog in north-western Russia, an Emergency Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Vladimir Larionov

Vladimir Pettaya, one of the Russia's leading Premier League football referees, was feared dead when a passenger jet crashed in north-west Russia, killing 44 people.

The plane burst into flames just half a mile from the runway on flight between Moscow and northern city of Petrozavodsk at about 11.40 pm local time on Monday, officials said.

The plane was carrying 52 people, including nine crew, crashed half a mile from the runway outside the northern city of Petrozavodsk.

News agencies reported that eight people, including a 10-year-old boy, survived the crash but are in critical condition in hospital in Petrozavodsk.

“The boy was still in an operating theater at the Children's Hospital of the Republic of Karelia, where he had undergone vascular surgery,” said Sergei Goncharov, the head of the Health Ministry's National Center for Disaster Medicine

Although there were no details of the crash available immediately, Interfax news agency quoted the airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky as saying that the plane crashed due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The Russian-made Tu-134 jet was heading towards the city of Petrozavodsk from Moscow. Petrozavodsk is in the province of Karelia, 640km (400 miles) north-west of Moscow.