Swiss air controller killer gets Russian govt job

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A Russian man who murdered a Swiss air traffic controller he blamed for the deaths of 71 people, including his family, landed a senior post in his native region on Friday months after his release from prison.

Vitaly Kaloyev stabbed to death air traffic controller Peter Nielsen, who was on duty the night in 2002 a jet carrying mostly Russian children crashed into a cargo plane in Swiss airspace. Kaloyev's wife and children were among those killed.

Kaloyev was greeted as a hero when he returned to Russia in November last year after serving two-thirds of a five years and three months sentence in a Swiss jail. Originally he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

An engineer by training, Kaloyev will now be working as deputy construction minister in the North Ossetia region in southern Russia.

"He is a highly qualified specialist," North Ossetia's Construction Minister Yevgeny Rodionov said after Kaloyev attended his first government meeting in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia's capital.

"He did not agree straight away (to take the job). I spoke to him about it a month ago. He hesitated about it and today he agreed," Rodionov told reporters.

A Swiss court last year found four air traffic control managers guilty of manslaughter over the accident in which Kaloyev's family perished, giving three of them 12-month suspended sentences each and fining the fourth.

When the two planes collided mid-air in 2002, both the main and backup telephone were out of order, radar software displaying flight coordinates was in a restricted mode and Nielsen's only colleague was on a coffee break.

One of the judges in Kaloyev's trial told the media that the Russian did not come to Switzerland intending to kill Nielsen but had lost control of himself when the man refused to offer apologies after Kaloyev had shown him pictures of his children.

Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Jon Boyle