Rescuers have found fragments of a military plane that crashed with 91 people on board in the Black Sea.
The Russian defence ministry said earlier that the plane disappeared from radars shortly after takeoff from the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Sunday. It carried eight crew and 83 passengers, including members of the world-famous Alexandrov military choir.
The ministry says rescue teams found fragments of the plane at a distance of about a mile from shore at a depth of 50-70 meters.
The Tu-154 plane, a Soviet-designed three-engine airliner, also carried nine journalists among the passengers, according to the Interfax news agency.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu was personally co-ordinating the rescue efforts, and President Vladimir Putin has received official reports on the incident.
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence affairs committee at the upper house of the Russian parliament, said in remarks carried by the state news agency RIA Novosti that he “totally excludes” terrorism as a possible cause of the crash.
The plane was en route to Russia’s air base in Syria. At least one body has been found and there is no word on whether anyone survived.
The Defence 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.