Russian military plane carrying 91 on board, including famed army band, crashes into Black Sea

A Tupolev Tu-154 transport plane and two bombers fly back from Syria

25 DECEMBER 2016 • 6:35AM

  • Russian military plane crashes into Black Sea
  • Aircraft was carrying famed military band
  • Plane was flying to Syria
  • Debris located in Black Sea

A Russian military plane crashed on Sunday in the Black Sea as it made its way to Syria with 91 people onboard, including musicians heading to celebrate the New Year with troops.

Local news agencies, citing the defence ministry, said the Tu-154 plane had crashed shortly after taking off from the southern city of Adler, south of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, at 5.40 am local time (0240 GMT).

It was conducting a routine flight to Russia's Hmeimim airbase outside the coastal Syrian city of Latakia, the ministry said.

"Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5 kilometres from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70 metres," the ministry said, adding that search and rescue groups had been dispatched earlier to locate the missing.

Among its 83 passengers were Russian servicemen as well as members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army's official musical group internationally known as the Red Army Choir, who were headed to Syria to participate in New Year celebrations at the airbase.

There were also eight crew members onboard, the ministry said.

A file picture shows members of the Russian Red Army Choir 

A file picture shows members of the Russian Red Army Choir  CREDIT: EPA

Nine members of the media were among the passengers, with state-run channel Pervy Kanal saying three of its staff were onboard the flight.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the situation and was being kept updated on the search operations.

Russia's Investigative Committee said that a criminal probe had been launched to determine whether violations of air transportation safety had led to the crash.

Investigators are currently questioning the technical personnel responsible for preparing the plane for take-off, the committee said.

 A Tupolev-154

 A Tupolev-154 CREDIT: AFP


Fragments 'found in Black Sea'

Local news agencies are quoting the defence ministry as saying debris from the missing Russian military plane has been found in the Black Sea.

"Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5 kilometres from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70 metres," the ministry said.


Russia's involvement in Syria


Crash site 'has been located'

Interfax has reported that the rescuers already have determined the location of the crash in the Black Sea, but there has been no official confirmation.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is reportedly personally coordinating the rescue efforts, and President Vladimir Putin has received official reports on the incident. 


The plane that vanished

The plane that has vanished from radar is a Tu-154 - a Soviet-designed three-engine airliner, like the one that crashed while carrying the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński. 

A Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft

A Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft CREDIT: REUTERS


Plane 'carrying journalists and army choir'

According to RIA Novosti, Russia's Emergencies Ministry says the plane was carrying nine journalists along with musicians from the army choir of the Russian Armed Forces, the Alexandrov Ensemble.

The musicians were due to take part in a New Year's concert at the Russian airbase in Latakia, Syria, the ministry reportedly confirmed.


Russian plane 'heading to Syria'

Reports suggest the plane was flying to Syria, where Russian jets have been engaged in an aerial campaign against rebels. 

Rebels and residents on Saturday said Russian jets had stepped up strikes on several towns in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province and rural Aleppo two days after the evacuation of rebels from their last pocket in the northern city of Aleppo.


Plane had '91 on board'

Russian news agencies quote Defence Ministry as saying military plane with 91 aboard has disappeared from radar. 

The ministry said there were 83 passengers and 8 crew members on board, and that search and rescue groups had been dispatched to locate the missing Tu-154.


Plane vanished '20 minutes after takeoff'

According to Interfax news agency, a source says the plane disappeared from radar 20 minutes after take-off at 5.20am local time (02:20 GMT). The said the aircraft vanished as it was manoeuvring over Russia's territorial waters.

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