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Suspected Terrorist Bomb Destroys Russian Plane With Military Band On Board Killing 92 en route to Syria — Updates

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Rescue helicopters have discovered the first body and debris in the Black Sea from a Russian military transport plane which went off radar en route to Syria. Most of the passengers on the Tu-154 were members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble army choir.

According to preliminary reports, the Tupolev transport plane had 92 people on board, including 84 passengers and eight crew members. It went missing over the Black Sea at 2:40 GMT shortly after refueling at an airport near Sochi.

Most of the passengers on board were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were travelling from Moscow to the Russian military base Khmeimim near Latakia, Syria, to take part in Christmas celebration with the troops deployed there.

Crews from Channel One Russia and Zvezda (the official media outlet of the Russian Defense Ministry), were on board as well, a source in the defense ministry told RIA Novosti.

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Helicopters dispatched from Sochi to search for the aircraft have discovered the crash site, the ministry reported.

“Hull fragments of the Tu-154 plane operated by the Defense Ministry have been found about 1.5 km off the Black Sea coast of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters,” the ministry said in a statement.

So far, no survivors have been found in the sea, local rescue services told Interfax.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the plane’s crash, the Kremlin said.

TASS reports that weather conditions in the regions were “favorable” to aviation. No civilian flights have been cancelled yet.

UPDATES:

  • 25 December 2016

    07:21 GMT

    Documents belonging to the Channel One journalists have been found at the scene, TASS news agency reports, citing a security service source.

  • 07:21 GMT

    A source told Interfax news agency that rescue workers have discovered several bodies at the scene.

    “Emergency workers are finding bodies, there are a few of them,” the source said.

  • 07:21 GMT

    Journalists from another Russian TV channel, NTV, were among those on board: correspondent Mikhail Luzhetsky, cameraman Oleg Pestov, and sound engineer Evgeny Tolstov, according to media reports.

  • 07:20 GMT

    The first victim’s body has been discovered six kilometers from the shore, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov stated, as cited by RIA Novosti.

  • 07:13 GMT

    NTV television channel reported that the third crew on board the crashed Tu-154 was their own.

  • 07:12 GMT

  • 07:10 GMT

    A rescue boat has found the body of a person who apparently died in the Tu-154 crash, the defense ministry reported. It was picked up about six kilometers off the coast.

  • 07:06 GMT

    The Russia Defense Ministry has updated the number of passengers: there were 84 on board, not 83, which brings the total to 92.

  • 07:04 GMT

    The Russian president’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that Vladimir Putin is in constant contact with the emergency and defense ministries.

    © Dmitriy Petrochenko

  • 07:04 GMT

    One of the solo singers from the Alexandrov Ensemble, Vadim Ananyev, had to stay home. The Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda spoke with him.

    “My colleagues and friends flew there – the choir, about 50 people, a group of bayan and balalaika players. They should have given one concert and come back. I don’t [know] what to say yet, just hope for the best. I didn’t go due to family matters: my son has just been born, he is the third child in the family, and I stayed home to help my wife,” Ananyev told the newspaper.

The Tupolev Tu-154 is a three-engine medium-range transport plane designed in the 1960s. It is capable of carrying up to 180 passengers, depending on the version. There are about 50 aircraft of this type remaining in operation throughout the world, with the Russian Air Force having the biggest fleet.

Over the decades, there have been around four dozen fatal incidents involving the aircraft, most of which were due to pilot error or improper maintenance. One of the most widely publicized crashes happened in 2010 near Smolensk, Russia, when a Tu-154M of the Polish Air Force carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his entourage crashed in foggy weather, killing all 96 people on board.

Source: RT