A Russian military jet headed to Syria crashed in the Black Sea. The plane was carrying 92 passengers, including the elite Russian Red Army Choir, known as Alexandrov Ensemble. Despite a frantic search, no survivors have been found or rescued yet.
A Russian military plane carrying members of the army’s official choir that was meant to perform for troops stationed in Syria crashed in the Black Sea near Sochi. According to official statements from the Russian Defense Ministry, no survivors have been found, implying that all the 92 passengers onboard the plane may have perished in the crash. The ministry’s spokesman, Igor Konashekov, noted that the Red Army Choir was “flying to congratulate Russian air force pilots in Syria with the New Year.”
A look at the Alexandrov Ensemble, whose members died in Russian plane crash https://t.co/0fu5uLW4mc
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) December 25, 2016
Russia has been engaged in an armed conflict with the radical Islamic group ISIS, also known as Islamic State or Daesh. While there has been no confirmation yet, an investigation into the crash may have been launched. Although Russian authorities insist the crash isn’t a terrorist attack, experts indicate the investigation will not rule out any possibility. While ISIS is being increasingly forced out of its strongholds, the terrorist group has proven in the past that it can bring down planes.
The Russian military plane, identified as Tupolev TU-154, was reportedly carrying 92 people, including 84 passengers and eight crew members. The plane suddenly disappeared from radar Sunday morning local time taking off from the Adler airport, reported state-run news agency RIA Novosti. The plane took off from Moscow and was destined for the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Latakia, Syria. Russia has a large military presence in the region, and a concert was scheduled for the troops stationed there.
Latest pics of Russian plane crash recovery operation, as well as images from Moscow where tributes are being laid https://t.co/2qdt37gGBF
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 25, 2016
The Russian TU-154 has a rather poor safety record. A workhorse of Russia since when it was known as USSR, the three-engine medium-range narrow-body airliner is part of an increasingly aging fleet. Incidentally, the aircraft became synonymous with air travel in the Soviet Union and has remained in active duty even after USSR’s fall in 1991. The aging plane resembles a Boeing 727.
Despite being phased out by most airline companies, the TU-154 continues to remain an integral part of the Russian military. The crashed plane had reportedly undergone a routine maintenance in September, and according to Russian news agency Sputnik, it was being flown by an experienced pilot who had clocked more 3,000 hours of flying.
Shocked to learn abot plane crash near Sochi. Condolences to family & friends of the victims. pic.twitter.com/QA1Y3NCgQF
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 25, 2016
Unfortunately, the TU-154 has been involved in some fatal accidents, reported CNN. Several of these crashes have been blamed on poor weather. However, CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam confirmed there were no major weather patterns prevalent at the time of the plane’s disappearance.
Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, noted the ill-fated TU-154 that was ferrying the Alexandrov Ensemble might have crashed because of a technical malfunction or pilot error. Categorically ruling out terrorism, Ozerov said,
“I rule out version of the terror attack completely. It is the aircraft of the Ministry of Defense, the airspace of the Russian Federation, there cannot be such a version. The plane had to make a U-turn after takeoff over the sea (and) may (have taken) the wrong direction.”
After the crash, Russian search and rescue discovered the plane’s debris in the Black Sea one mile from Sochi. The country dispatched four ships and five helicopters, and promised more than 100 divers with special equipment will comb the crash site to ensure all the victims are recovered. A group of medical and psychological professionals have also been assembled to help relatives.
Updates on Russian plane crash:
– 92 feared dead
– Military band was on board, headed to entertain forces in Syria
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 25, 2016
The famed Alexandrov Ensemble comprised of 60 experienced musicians. The group is the Russian army’s official choir. The group was led by conductor Valery Kahlilov, who was on the ill-fated Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea. Besides the world-famous choir group, the military plane was also ferrying nine Russian journalists, and a Russian doctor famous for her work in war zone, reported WSFA.
[Featured Image by Alexander Utkin/Getty Images]