Sunday, December 25, 2016

Russian Military Plane Crashes With 92 Aboard; No Survivors Expected

No survivors are expected after a Russian military aircraft carrying at least 92 people crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport on the Black Sea coast early Sunday, according to the Russian military in a statement Sunday afternoon.Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Monday will be an official day of mourning for the nation.
“A thorough investigation of the causes of the disaster will be held, and everything possible will be done to support the families of the victims,” he added.

The casualties of the disaster including more than 60 members of the Alexandro Ensemble, a well-loved army choir and dance troupe that performs folk music and popular songs.
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Tu-154 aircraft disappeared from radar minutes after departure about 5:30 a.m. Moscow time from Adler, an airport near the city of Sochi in Russia’s Krasnodar region. Fragments of the fuselage were later found in the Black Sea, he said.
Gen. Konashenkov said the plane was carrying 84 passengers—increased from an earlier official Russian military statement saying there were 83 passengers aboard—and eight crew members.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Russian military said the operation included 37 divers, 4 helicopters, drones and remotely piloted underwater vehicles. More than 3,000 people were taking part in the recovery effort, the Russian military said.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, members of a military choir and members of the Russian media were aboard the plane, bound for the main Russian air base in Syria for a new year’s holiday concert.
A list released by the Russian military said 64 of the passengers were members of the Alexandro Ensemble.
Mr. Putin had earlier been informed of the aircraft’s disappearance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pskov told Interfax. The Kremlin issued a statement Sunday from Mr. Putin directing Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to head an investigation into the cause of the crash.
The Tu-154 is a Soviet-designed, three-engine passenger aircraft. The Russian Defense Ministry said the plane that crashed in the Black Sea was manufactured in 1983 and underwent scheduled maintenance this fall, the news agency Interfax reported.
The Russian military described the pilot as an experienced aviator, Interfax said.
Sunday’s crash was the highest number of fatalities in a Tu-154 crash since the 2010 disaster that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of others outside the western Russian city of Smolensk. That crash claimed the lives of 96 people, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
The Smolensk crash continues to be a sore point in Russian-Polish relations, with members of Mr. Kaczynski’s party intimating the accident was a plot attempt to assassinate the Polish leader.
In a press conference Friday, Mr. Putin said an investigation was continuing into the crash, but added: “All the speculation on this issue needs to stop.”