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In Syria-Bound Russian Jet Crash, 92 Dead Include At Least 60 Red Army Choir Singers

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In Syria-Bound Russian Jet Crash, 92 Dead Include At Least 60 Red Army Choir Singers

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People lay flowers in memory of dead in Russian jet crash

MOSCOW (Reuters) – 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, killing everyone on board, Russian authorities said.

The Russian Defence Ministry said one of its TU-154 Tupolev planes had disappeared from radar screens at 9:25 p.m. ET, two minutes after taking off from Sochi in southern Russia, where it had stopped to refuel from Moscow, on its way to Syria.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, told reporters that nobody had survived.

“The area of the crash site has been established. No survivors have been spotted,” he said. An unnamed ministry source told Russian news agencies no life rafts had been found, while another source told the Interfax agency that the plane had not sent an SOS signal.

In televised comments, President Vladimir Putin, speaking in St Petersburg, declared December 26 a national day of mourning.

The jet, a Soviet-era Tupolev plane built in 1983, had been carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members.

At least 60 were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, better known internationally as the Red Army Choir, and were being flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria to entertain troops in the run-up to the New Year.

Nine Russian reporters were also on board as well as military servicemen.

Konashenkov said fragments of the plane had been found at a depth of about 70 meters (yards) in the Black Sea about 1.5 km (1 mile) off the coast near the city of Sochi.

“The search operation is continuing,” said Konashenkov. “Four ships, four helicopters, and a plane and a drone are working in the area,” he said, saying a military commission had flown to Sochi to look into what happened.

Six ships from Russia’s Black Sea fleet were on their way to the crash site, and more than 100 divers were being drafted in to search the area along with a mini-submarine.

Konashenkov said four bodies had been recovered from the sea. Russian news agencies cited a higher figure.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing an unidentified security source, said preliminary information indicated that the plane had crashed because of a technical malfunction or a pilot error. Another source told Russian agencies that the possibility of a militant act had been ruled out. The weather had been good.

Konashenkov said the plane had last been serviced in September and undergone more major repairs in December 2014. He said the pilot was experienced and that the plane had about 7,000 flying hours on its clock.

According to the defense ministry’s passenger manifest, Elizaveta Glinka, a member of Putin’s advisory human rights council, was on the plane.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was too early to say what had caused the crash. Putin was 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.

The Kremlin said Putin expressed his deepest condolences to those who had lost loved ones in the crash and ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to head a government investigatory commission.

Russia’s Defence 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 air strikes against Syrian rebels.

The last big TU-154 crash was in 2010 when a Polish jet carrying then-president Lech Kaczynski and much of Poland’s political elite crashed in western Russia killing everyone on board.

Russian news agencies cited Denis Manturov, the Russian Transport Minister, as saying on Sunday it was premature to talk about withdrawing the TU-154 from service.

On December 19, a Russian military jet crashed in Siberia with 39 people on board as it tried to make an emergency landing near a Soviet-era military base. Nobody was killed in that incident, though 32 people were airlifted to hospital.

(Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Svetlana Reiter; Editing by Louise Ireland)

IMAGE: People lay flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154 plane crashed into the Black Sea, outside the headquarters of Red Army Choir, also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble, in Moscow, Russia December 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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8 Comments

  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 26, 2016

    In light of this unfortunate accident it’s worth noting and reflecting on several factors”:

    1) The coincidence of the accident en route to Syria with the Holiday Season

    2) Russian meddling too the point of further destabilizing Syria and its direct
    contribution resulting in countless deaths of innocent women, children and
    men, as well as the thousands who have been displaced as a result
    3) Putin being in bed so to speak with Assad(and Trump), and a flight with a choir
    to entertain the Russian troops assisting with the on-going carnage.

    These things may not have some thread connecting them, but then again there
    might be.

    And then there is Russia stating it wants to increase its nuclear stockpile(as though they and America don’t have enough already), while at the same time can’t see to it there their aging aircraft aren’t mothballed, or direct their deflated rubles to repairing ancient equipment which would have lessened the odds of this accident happening.

    Neither Trump, Putin, Assad, and a few other world leaders, have the wit, foresight, nor spiritual insights and intuition to put 2+2 together.

    Reply
    1. Godzilla December 26, 2016

      You forgot the part about Obama and Clinton are the ones who started all the mess in Syria. What’s the matter, in denial? Or are you just another lying liberal………

      Reply
      1. I Am Helpy December 26, 2016

        Yes we get that you want to bend over and spread your cheeks for a murderous dictator. Two dictators, actually, since – like Trump – Assad is just another Putin puppet.

        Reply
      2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 26, 2016

        Playing High School football w/o a helmet all those years has clearly affected your thinking abilities. Are you so daft as to think Assad and his father were created by Obama and Clinton? Are you able to read and understand history and books on current affairs? Reliance on FOX and Breitbart are a sure fire way to eliminate what remaining neurons you have left.

        Reply
      3. jmprint December 27, 2016

        How can anyone forget your fantasy, when you keep spewing the lie. They didn’t start the mess, why can’t you blame Assad, he was killing his own people. Why do you praise that?

        Reply
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