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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The pilot of a plane that crashed last year, wiping out a professional Russian ice hockey team, had been granted permission to fly it based on forged documents, federal investigators said on Thursday.

The pilot and co-pilot of the Yak-42 plane "had not undergone the necessary training to fly this type of aircraft", Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's top investigative agency, said in televised comments.

He said the pilot's permission to fly the plane had been granted on the basis of "falsified documents".

The Yak-42 aircraft slammed into a river bank shortly after takeoff on September 7, 2011 from Yaroslavl, home city of the Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv, whose Russian and foreign stars were on board flying to an away match.

Thirty-six Lokomotiv players and officials and eight crew members were killed; one crew member survived.

Vadim Timofeyev, deputy head of airline Yak-Service which operated the flight, was held responsible for the "blatant violations" and has been charged with breaching air safety rules, Markin said. He could face seven years in prison.

Among the dead were Swedish goalkeeper Stefan Liv, a former world and Olympic champion, and Canadian Brad McCrimmin, who played more than 1,200 NHL games and was head coach of Lokomotiv at the time of the crash.

Russia and the former Soviet republics combined for one of the world's worst air-traffic safety records last year, with a total accident rate almost three times the world average, according to the International Air Transport Association.

(Writing by Philip O'Connor and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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