A Syria-bound Russian military plane has crashed in the Black Sea. The defense ministry has said there is 'no sign of survivors.'
The TU-154 military aircraft was carrying 92 passengers when it disappeared from radar screens over the Black Sea shortly after taking off from the coastal city of Sochi on Sunday. The defense ministry later confirmed that the plane had crashed.
In comments carried by Russia's state RIA Novosti news agency, the head of the defense affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament said he ruled out terrorism given that it was a military flight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into the crash. He also declared Monday as a national day of mourning.
A search of the area is under way. Some debris has been recovered about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the Russian coast, but there are no signs of survivors, the Russian military said.
The defense ministry said a body had also been found some six kilometers off the coast.
More than 60 of the passengers were members of Russia's famous Alexandrov Ensemble, a military performance group that features a choir, orchestra, and dancers. Originally established in 1928, the group performs Russian folk tunes, church hymns, operatic arias and popular music.
The Alexandrov Ensemble was on its way to Russia's Hmeimim military base outside of Latakia, Syria, for a New Year's performance.
The aircraft took off from Sochi carrying 84 passengers, including nine journalists, and eight crew members.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who counts on Russia's military support and on President Vladimir Putin to support Syria's military, expressed his condolences, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA.
mz/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)