MOSCOW: Russian military plane crashed Sunday in the Black Sea as it made its way to Syria with 92 people onboard, including more than 60 Red Army Choir members heading to celebrate the New Year with troops.
Local news agencies, citing the defense ministry, said the Tu-154 plane had crashed shortly after take-off at 5:40 am local time (0240 GMT) from the southern city of Adler where it had been refuelling.
Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies that one body had been recovered six kilometers off the coast of the resort city of Sochi, as a frantic search operation continued to hunt for the missing.
“Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5 kilometers from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70 meters,” the ministry said.
The plane had been on a routine flight to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in western Syria, which has been used to launch air strikes in Moscow’s military campaign supporting its ally President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s devastating civil war.
Among the plane’s 84 passengers were Russian servicemen as well as 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army’s official musical group also known as the Red Army Choir, and its conductor Valery Khalilov. They were headed to Syria to participate in New Year celebrations at the airbase.