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Sunday, December 25, 2016, 16:44

Russian defense ministry plane crashes

By Associated Press

Russian defense ministry plane crashes
This file photo taken on Jan 2, 2001 shows a Tupolev-154 (TU-154) aircraft. (Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

MOSCOW - A Russian passenger plane with 92 people aboard, including a well-known military band, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday minutes after takeoff from the resort city of Sochi, the Defense Ministry said.

The Tu-154, which belonged to the Defense Ministry, was taking the Alexandrov choir to a concert at the Russian air base in Syria.

A total of 84 passengers and eight crew members were on board the plane when it dropped off of radars minutes after taking off in good weather. Emergency services found fragments about 1.5 kilometers from shore at a depth of 50 to 70 meters. The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known.

A Russian official 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.

Russian defense ministry plane crashes
This file photo taken on Oct 23, 2015 shows the official army choir of the Russian armed forces, also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble, performing at the Palais des Sports in Paris. ( Jacques DEMARTHON / AFP)

Rescuers already have found one body and personal documents belonging to some of those on board. There was no word of survivors.

The Defense Ministry has released a list of the passengers. They include 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, among them its leader, Valery Khalilov. The Alexandrov Ensemble is the official choir of the Russian military, and it also includes a band and a dancing company.

Nine Russian journalists, including a TV crew from Channel One, were also among the passengers. The plane was headed to the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was personally coordinating the rescue efforts, and President Vladimir Putin has received official reports on the incident.

The Tu-154 is a Soviet-built three-engine airliner designed in the late 1960s. More than 1,000 have been built, and they have been used extensively by carriers in Russia and worldwide.

In recent years, Russian airlines have replaced their Tu-154s with more modern planes, but the military and some other government agencies in Russia have continued to use them.

Russian defense ministry plane crashes

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