Moscow: Russian football mourned the loss of a top match official who had just refereed his 100th Premier League game and died on Tuesday in a fiery plane crash along with 43 others near his hometown.
The 38-year-old Vladimir Pettai had been a top-flight Russian referee since 2003 and in 2010 earned the status of a FIFA match official, one of the highest honours in his profession.
"Pettai established a reputation as of the best and most experienced referees in our country," the Russian Football Union said in a statement
Every major Russian football team released messages of condolences on their websites while the sport's executive body issued a statement expressing support for Pettai's relatives and the families of other victims.
"Our sincere condolences to the friends and relatives of all tragedy victims. We are with you throughout these hard and painful minutes," the Premier League said in a statement.
A Tu-134 jet crashed on landing in heavy fog early on Tuesday at an airport in the northwestern town of Petrozavodsk.
Officials released the names of eight survivors but Pettai was not listed among them.
Pettai had refereed a match between Premier League sides Dinamo and Rubin Kazan over the weekend and was flying from Moscow's Domodedovo airport to the city near where he was born.
He was scheduled to referee another match on Sunday between the country's most titled team Spartak Moscow and Rostov.
Pettai was survived by his wife and two young children. The football body said it would provide assistance to his family in addition to that promised by authorities to other victims' relatives.
"We will help the family, without a doubt," Russian Football Union chief Sergei Fursenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"He was a person who dedicated himself to football. He has a wonderful family."
Pettai was a midfielder for local side Karelia Asmaral when he was younger and began a professional refereeing career in 1996.