MOSCOW – A Russian plane headed to an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, including members of a well-known military choir, crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
There was no indication anyone survived the crash of the Tu-154, which belonged to the Defense Ministry and was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a New Year’s concert at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia. Crews recovered several bodies and ships, helicopters and drones were searching the area for more.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 10 bodies had been recovered so far.
“No survivors are seen,” Konashenkov said.
Magomed Tolboyev, a decorated Russian test pilot, said the circumstances of the crash indicated that all people on board have died.
A total of 84 passengers and eight crew members were on the plane when it disappeared from radars two minutes after taking off in good weather. Emergency crews found fragments about 1.5 kilometers (less than one mile) from shore. There was no immediate word on the cause.
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense affairs committee at the upper house of Russian parliament, said the crash could have been caused by a technical malfunction or a crew error, but he believes it could not have been terrorism because the plane was operated by the military.
“I totally exclude” the idea of an attack bringing down the plane, he said in remarks carried by state RIA Novosti news agency.
The passenger list released by the Defense Ministry included 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, among them its leader, Valery Khalilov. The ensemble is the official choir of the Russian military and also includes a band and a dance company.