A Russian military aircraft crashed into the Black Sea yesterday killing all 92 passengers on board.
The Russian defence ministry said that the plane disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from Sochi at 05:25 (02:25 GMT), heading for Latakia in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the relatives of the passengers.
“I want to express my most sincere condolences to the families of our citizens who died in the plane crash in the Black Sea this morning. The government will do everything to provide support. Tomorrow will be a national day of mourning in Russia,” Putin told journalists in St. Petersburg.
December 26 declared national day of mourninghttps://t.co/TrEgVh0dDy
— Vladimir Putin (@PutinRF_Eng) December 25, 2016
Pilot error or equipment failure is thought to be most likely cause of crash.
Authorities had suggested they might struggle to locate the plane’s black box recorders, which had no beacon device to assist rescuers, and with the crash site spanning a large sea area.
At midday on Monday there were conflicting reports on the extent of what had been found. The AFP news agency cited a member of the emergency ministry’s Sochi-based search and rescue team saying “divers … have found the fuselage of the plane that crashed yesterday in the Black Sea”.
The Associated Press also reported the “fuselage” had been found, before a statement from the ministry said “fragments” of debris had been found and the divers were going back into the water to search for more.
Earlier, Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said it saw no signs of a possible terror plot in Sunday’s plane crash.
The agency said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies that it was focusing the probe on possibilities including pilot error, low quality of fuel, external objects getting in the engine or an unspecified technical fault.
The passengers on board included dozens of singers in Russia’s world-famous military choir, nine Russian journalists and a Russian doctor known for her charity work in war zones.
The loss of so many talented colleagues is devastating to members of the Russian Defence Ministry choir who did not get on the plane that crashed into the Black Sea.
The choir was on its way to perform a New Year’s concert at a Russian air base in Syria when their plane crashed Sunday right after takeoff from Sochi. All 92 people aboard are presumed dead.