The main black box from the Russian military plane crash has been recovered from the Black Sea. All TU-154 planes have reportedly been grounded until the cause of the Christmas Day crash has been confirmed.
Russia's Defense Ministry told news agencies on Tuesday that the main black box from a Russian military plane that crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday has been found.
"The main black box was found at 5:42 a.m. Moscow time (0242 UTC) 1,600 meters (5,249 feet) from the shore at a depth of 17 meters," agencies quoted the ministry as saying, adding that the device would be flown to Moscow for evaluation.
It was not immediately clear whether the box had suffered any damage when the TU-154 crashed.
'No signs' pointing to terrorism
Investigators are currently looking into four suspected causes of the crash, namely technical failure, faulty fuel, pilot error and an object in the engine.
Although terrorism had not been completely ruled out, Russia's federal security service said in a statement that there were "no signs or facts pointing to a possible act of terror [that] have been received at this time."
Citing a law enforcement source, the Interfax news agency also reported that a second flight recorder had been found in the wreckage but not yet raised to the surface.
Recovery operation ongoing
All 92 passengers and crew on board the plane were killed in Sunday's crash. The plane initially flew from Chkalovsky military airport and landed in Sochi to refuel on its way to Syria. However the aircraft crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from the Russian coastal town.
Among the victims were dozens of Red Army Choir singers and dancers who were traveling to Syria to entertain Russian troops in the run-up to the New Year. According to the Defense Ministry, search and rescue teams have so far recovered 12 bodies and 156 body fragments.
TU-154 planes grounded
Russia's Interfax news agency also reported on Tuesday that, following a string of notorious crashes involving the same aircraft model, all TU-154 planes had been grounded until the cause of Sunday's crash had been determined. The model is already no longer used by commercial airlines.
Since 2000, more than 800 have died in major crashes involving a TU-154. In April 2010, then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski was among the 95 victims who died in a TU-154 crash.
The news on Tuesday followed a day of mourning in Russia. State television broadcast black and white photos of the victims and all other entertainment was canceled. Mourners brought flowers to the Sochi airport, as well as the headquarters of the Alexandrov Ensemble in Moscow.
Others paid tribute to humanitarian and charity worker Elizaveta Glinka who was also killed in Sunday's crash. People left flowers at the office of Fair Aid, the organization that Glinka ran.
ksb/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)