Search teams have recovered a flight recorder from the Russian military plane that crashed into the Black Sea over the weekend, the defence ministry said.
All 92 people aboard the Tu-154 plane are believed to have died on Sunday morning when it crashed two minutes after taking off from the southern Russian city of Sochi.
The 84 passengers included dozens of singers from Russia’s world-famous military choir who were going to the Russian Air Force base in Syria to perform at a new year concert.
The defence ministry said one of the plane’s black boxes was found on the sea bed about a mile from shore. State television showed footage of searchers in an inflatable boat carrying a container with a bright orange object submerged in water.
The ministry said in a statement that the recorder, which has been flown to a ministry lab outside Moscow, did not sustain serious damage. The ministry said experts will need to clean the device in distilled water before they begin to retrieve data from it.
Mourners are continuing to take flowers to the pier of Sochi’s sea port as about 3,500 people, 45 ships and 192 divers sweep a large area for bodies and debris, and dozens of drones and several submersibles have also been involved in the search.
Rescue teams have recovered 12 bodies and numerous body fragments, which have been flown to Moscow for identification.
Divers have already found fragments of the fuselage, parts of the engine and various mechanical parts, the defence ministry said.
Officials have not announced the cause of the plane crash, but they have been anxious to end speculation that it might have been caused by a bomb on board or a portable air defence missile.
Some aviation experts have noted that the crew’s failure to communicate any technical problem, and a large area over which fragments of the plane were scattered, point to a possible explosion on board.