No less than 92 persons were feared dead after a Russian military plane crashed into the Black Sea, Russia’s defence ministry says.
It was gathered that the plane which had 84 passengers and eight crew members disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from Sochi at 05:25 (02:25 GMT), heading for Latakia in Syria.
The plane, which first took off from Moscow, was headed to the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Latakia, Syria, where the country has a large military presence, for a concert ahead of New Year’s Eve, a source told Russia’s state news agency Tass.
Debris and several bodies have been found, with no reports of survivors.
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.”
Sixty-four members of the renowned Alexandrov Ensemble, the Russian army’s official choir, were on board the plane, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Valery Kahlilov, the ensemble’s conductor, was one of the passengers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to launch and lead an investigation into the Tu-154 crash, according to Russian news agency Sputnik.
Putin also said Monday will be a day of national mourning.