Putin orders probe into deadly military plane crash

By Agencies - Global Times Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/26 0:13:39

Ensemble had plans to perform in China in Feb




Flowers lie in front of a photo of a well-known military choir in Moscow on Sunday, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the Russian resort city of Sochi. Photo: AP

Flowers lie in front of a photo of a well-known military choir in Moscow on Sunday, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the Russian resort city of Sochi. Photo: AP

A Russian military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of Red Army Choir singers, dancers and orchestra members, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday morning with no sign of survivors.

Ten bodies had been recovered as of press time. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a nationwide day of mourning on Monday for victims of the crash. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a letter of condolence to his Russian counterpart.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Tu-154 aircraft disappeared from radar screens over the Black Sea, two minutes after taking off from Adler near Sochi in southern Russia, where it had stopped to refuel en route from Moscow. Russia Today reported the plane disappeared at 2:40 GMT.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesperson, said fragments of the aircraft were found by rescue helicopters at a depth of about 70 meters in the Black Sea about 1.5 kilometers off the coast near Sochi.

A ministry source told Russian news agencies that those on board had almost no chance of surviving and that no life rafts had been found. The Interfax news agency cited unnamed sources in the emergency services as saying the plane had not sent an SOS signal.

The jet, a Soviet-era design first introduced in the 1970s, was carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members. Among them 64 were members of the Red Army Choir, also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, who were being flown out to Russia's Khmeimim military base near Latakia, Syria to entertain troops deployed there as part of Christmas celebrations. Nine Russian reporters and prominent humanitarian worker Elizaveta Glinka were on board, as well as military servicemen.

The Alexandrov Ensemble is due to visit China and perform in the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing from February 5-8. Online ticket sales were still open as of press time.

"The search operation is continuing," said Konashenkov. Dozens of ships, drones and divers are searching the scene, and over 3,000 people are involved in the mission, according to the defense ministry. A military commission had flown to Sochi from Moscow to look into what happened.

Russia's RIA news agency said preliminary information indicated that the plane had crashed either because of a technical malfunction or pilot error. Another source told Russian agencies that the possibility of a militant act had been ruled out. The weather had been good. The navigator of the crashed Tu-154 was part of a crew that managed to safely land an out-of-control aircraft back in 2011.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was too early to say what had caused the crash. The president is being kept constantly informed of the latest developments, Peskov said. Russian military investigators said in a statement they had opened a criminal investigation into the crash.

Russia's defense ministry regularly flies musicians into Syria to put on concerts for military personnel. The base they were heading for, Hmeymim, is in Latakia province. It is from there that Russia launches airstrikes against Syrian rebels.

The Tu-154 aircraft has been involved in a number of accidents. In 2010 the then Polish president Lech Kaczynski died when a Tu-154 airliner crashed  in western Russia.

Agencies - Global Times

Posted in: EUROPE,LATEST NEWS

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