Russian military plane crashes in Black Sea

A Russian military plane with 92 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea, Russia’s defence ministry says.

The plane disappeared from radar 20 minutes after taking off from the resort of Sochi at 05:20 (02:20 GMT). Fragments have now been found.

The defence ministry said the Tu-154 was carrying service personnel, members of the famed Alexandrov military band, and reporters.

The plane was flying to the Syrian province of Latakia.

The flight originated in Moscow and had landed at Adler airport in Sochi for refueling.

The defence ministry said in a statement: “Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5km (one mile) from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70 metres.”

Reports said So far no survivors have been found.

Most of the passengers were Alexandrov Ensemble members, reports said, along with nine journalists and eight crew members.

Reports in the area said flying conditions were favorable. An investigation has been launched to determine whether any violations of air transport safety regulations had taken place.

Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said the plane was carrying passengers to a New Year’s performance for Russian troops deployed in Syria.

The performance was scheduled to take place at Russia’s Hmeimim air base, near Latakia.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in support of Syrian government forces battling rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Tu-154 has been involved in dozens of fatal incidents since it was designed in the mid-1960s. It was the workhorse of Soviet and Russian airlines for decades, but only about 50 aircraft are now in service worldwide.

In April 2010, a Tu-154 plane crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, killing all 96 people on board, including the Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

A Tu-154, operated by Siberian Airlines, was shot down over the Black Sea in October 2001, killing 78 people.

The plane was travelling from Tel Aviv in Israel to Novosibirsk in Russia, and most of the passengers were Israeli.

The Ukrainian military initially denied involvement but officials later admitted the plane could have been hit accidentally during a training exercise.

Reuters/Hauwa M.