A Russian plane crashed into the Black Sea soon after taking off from Sochi. 92 people were on the plane. The rescue team believes that all the passengers are dead. Only ten bodies have been found until now. The Russian Defense Ministry admited that terrorism has not been discarded yet.

There were 84 passengers and eight crew members aboard of the Tu-154 plane. The plane belonged to the Defense Ministry, and it was taking its famous army choir, the “Alexandrov Ensemble” to Syria for a New Year’s concert at Hemeimeem air base. Among the passengers, there were nine Russian journalists and a doctor highly recognized for her work in war zones.

Rescuers stand near a stretcher with passenger belongings recovered after a Russian military plane crashed in the Black Sea, on December 25, 2016. Image Credit: Ekaterina Lyzlova / AFP/Getty Images

“We will conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons and will do everything to support the victims’ families,” Putin said. “Tomorrow a nationwide day of mourning will be declared in Russia”, added the president of Russia.

The causes of the accident are still unknown. 

Earlier this morning a Russian military plane carrying 92 people, crashed into the Black Sea. The event occurred two minutes after its takeoff from Sochi, a city located in southern Russia. Emergency crews found pieces of the plane just 1.5 kilometers or a little bit less than a mile, away from the shore.

Ships, helicopters, drones and rescue teams were sent to search for the victims in the Black Sea and to investigate the causes of the plane crash. By Sunday afternoon, the emergency teams rescued ten bodies. More than 3000 people mobilized for the rescue mission, they worked on 27 ships in the Black Sea area.

However, expectations are low. According to Magomed Tolboyev, a Russian test pilot, there are no survivors given the condition under which the crash happened.

“There is no chance to survive in such situation,” said Magomed Tolboyev. “The plane gets instantly blown into pieces.”

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the event as a tragedy while President Vladimir Putin spoke on national TV offering condolences and support to the victims’ families. He declared a national day of mourning and said that the government would do everything to find out what caused the accident.

At the moment, everything is possible for the investigators, even terrorism. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said that they are looking for every possible reason.

The famous “Alexandrov Ensemble” army choir was on the plane 

The plane parted from Sochi with good weather conditions. There were 92 people aboard. 84 of them included the celebrated “Alexandrov Ensemble” army choir – known as the Red Army Choir too – which was going to give a New Year’s concert at Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.

The Russian military has flown groups of Russian singers on several occasions to perform at Hemeimeem since it is the main area of the Russian campaign in Syria.

The passenger list, published by the Defense Ministry, indicated that 64 members of the army choir were in fact inside the plane, including its leader Valery Khalilov. According to Viktor Yeliseyev, head of the rival choir of the Russian National Guard, it was a great damage to the choir, the majority of its singers were on the plane.

The “Alexandrov Ensemble” choir sang “Get lucky” at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games that Russia hosted in Sochi, becoming a worldwide sensation. It is the official choir of the Russian military.

On the plane, there were 8 crew members, nine journalists and Yelizaveta Glinka, a famous Russian doctor, best known for her charity work and her abilities working in war zones of Ukraine and Syria. She was awarded by Putin earlier this month. Glinka was on the plane because she was accompanying a shipment of medicines that donated her foundation for a Hospital in Syria.

Was it an act of terror?

The plane was a Tu-154, which is a Soviet-built three-engine airliner designed in the late 1960s. It was owned by the Russian Defense Ministry. It was built in 1983, and it received maintenance in 2014 and earlier this year, according to the Defense Ministry. Recently, Russian airlines have been replacing the TU-154s with much more modern planes.

Senior Russian lawmakers ruled out a terror attack, saying that the plane was secured. However, minister Sokolov, who is in charge of the investigation said that they are considering every possibility, even terrorism. The crew didn’t report a malfunction in the plane, which raises the chances of a possible act of terror.

“Possible malfunctions … certainly wouldn’t have prevented the crew from reporting them,” said Vitaly Andreyev, a former senior Russian air traffic controller, adding that it points at an “external impact.”

Russian planes have suffered crashes due to terrorism. In October 2015, 224 people died – most of them were Russian tourists – when a Russian passenger plane coming from Egypt was brought down by a bomb over the Sinai. The explosive was positioned in the plane’s luggage compartment. An affiliate of ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another tragedy occurred in 2004 when a Chechen warlord claimed responsibility for blowing up two Russian planes in the skies with suicide bombers. It all occurred on the same day and 89 people died.

Source: The New York Times