Christmas tragedy: 92 killed as Russian plane crashes

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All 92 passengers onboard a Russian military plane have been confirmed dead after the aircraft crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday.

 Remains of the victims were said to have been recovered.

According to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Tu-154 was said to be conveying soldiers, reporters and 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble who were to perform for the Russian troops.

The flight had originated in Moscow and landed at Adler airport in Sochi for refuelling.

The plane was said to have disappeared from the radar two minutes after taking off from Sochi at 05.25 (02.25 GMT), heading for Latakia in Syria.

An audio recording played on Russian media and said to be the final conversation between air traffic controllers and the pilot reveals no sign of any difficulties being faced by the crew.

Voices remain calm until the plane disappears and the controllers try in vain to re-establish contact.

Reports from the area said flying conditions were favourable.

President Vladimir Putin had said Monday would be a day of national mourning.

The defence ministry said in a statement, “Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5km (one mile) from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70m (165-230ft).”

Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said, “No survivors have been spotted.”

Konashenkov said the plane was last serviced in September and had undergone more substantial repairs in December 2014. It had an “experienced” pilot.

President Putin has ordered a state commission to look into the crash and sent his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

The defence ministry has published a passenger list (in Russian), showing that 64 of those on board were from the Alexandrov Ensemble, including its director, Valery Khalilov.

There were nine journalists, eight soldiers, two civil servants and eight crew members.

Also on board was Elizaveta Glinka, known as Dr. Liza, the executive director of the Fair Aid charity and the inaugural winner of Russia’s state prize for achievements in human rights.

The Alexandrov Ensemble was scheduled to perform a New Year’s concert at Russia’s Hmeimim air base near Latakia.

Reuters reported that six ships from Russia’s Black Sea fleet were on their way to the crash site, and more than 100 divers were being drafted to search the area along with a mini-submarine.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing an unidentified security source, said preliminary information indicated that the plane had crashed because of a technical malfunction or a pilot error.

Another source told Russian agencies that the possibility of a militant act had been ruled out.

Russian military investigators said in a statement they had opened a criminal investigation into the crash.

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