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AFP

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Russia’s Tu-154 military transport planes have been regularly flying to Syria, escorted by Russian bombers (file picture)

A Russian military plane with 92 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea, Russia’s defence ministry says.

The plane disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from the resort of Sochi at 05:25 (02:25 GMT). Fuselage fragments have now been found and one body has been retrieved.

The defence ministry said the Tu-154 was carrying soldiers, 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble and nine reporters.

It was flying to Latakia in Syria.

The flight originated in Moscow and had landed at Adler airport in Sochi for refuelling.

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).”

So far no survivors have been found, local rescuers told the Interfax news agency.

Defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov confirmed that the “body of a person killed as a result the crash… was found 6km off the coast of Sochi”.


Who are the Alexandrov Ensemble?

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Getty Images

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Members of the Alexandrov Ensemble performing in Paris in 2015

  • Alexandrov Ensemble is the official choir of the Russian armed forces
  • It was founded in 1928 during the Soviet era
  • The group also includes an orchestra and dancers
  • It takes its name from its first director, Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, who wrote the music to the national anthem of the Soviet Union
  • Holds the right to use the term Red Army Choir, although the interior ministry’s MVD Ensemble also uses it
  • Listen to the Alexandrov Ensemble here

The defence ministry has published a passenger list (in Russian), showing that 64 of those on board were from the Alexandrov Ensemble.

There were nine journalists, eight soldiers, two civil servants, an NGO member and eight crew members.

Reports in the area said flying conditions were favourable. An investigation has been launched to determine whether any violations of air transport safety regulations had taken place.

Mr Konashenkov said the plane was carrying passengers to a New Year’s performance for Russian troops deployed in Syria.

The performance was scheduled to take place at Russia’s Hmeimim air base, near Latakia.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in support of Syrian government forces who are battling rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


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Tupolev-154: Russian workhorse

  • The backbone of Soviet and Russian airlines for decades
  • Three engines, narrow-bodied and medium range
  • Designed in the mid-60s, came into service in 1972 and was modernised in 1986 with new engines and equipment
  • Has seen 39 fatal accidents, although few were due to technical problems. Many were as a result of difficult weather conditions and poor air traffic control. A few were lost in conflicts including in Lebanon, Georgia and Afghanistan
  • Phased out since the turn of the century. Aeroflot retired its fleet in 2010. Only about 50 in service worldwide

In April 2010, a Tu-154 plane crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, killing all 96 people on board, including the Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

A Tu-154, operated by Siberian Airlines, was shot down over the Black Sea in October 2001, killing 78 people.

The plane was travelling from Tel Aviv in Israel to Novosibirsk in Russia, and most of the passengers were Israeli.

The Ukrainian military initially denied involvement but officials later admitted the plane could have been hit accidentally during a training exercise.



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