|Sochi airport near the Black Sea|
A Russian military turbo jet aircraft [TU-154] with 92 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria. Russian news agencies reported on Sunday that it was unlikely there would be any survivors.
Unnamed security sources, say the TU-154 aircraft had crashed into the Black Sea not far from the southern Russian city of Sochi.
It disappeared minutes after taking off over the Black Sea. The plane had departed at 5:40am local time (0240 GMT) from Adler, south of Sochi.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the plane was transporting Russian servicemen, reporters, members of a renowned military choir and dance troupe: the Alexandrov Ensemble. Their destination, the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Syria to entertain troops in the run-up to the New Year.
The TU-154 plane was carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members. Nine Russian reporters were also among the passengers.
Local sources report that debris from the wrecked plane has already been found at a depth of 50-70 metres, some 1.5 km (0.93 miles) from the Russian coast.
An unidentified security source, suggests preliminary data indicated that the plane had crashed due to a technical malfunction or a pilot error. However other sources are strongly suggesting that terrorism and sabotage cannot at this early stage be ruled out.
The respected Interfax news agency reporting the plane had not pinged a Mayday SOS message, before dropping off radar screens.
Meanwhile Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was too early to say what had caused the crash. President Vladimir Putin was being kept informed of latest developments, Peskov added.
Julian Bray aviation security and operations expert comments: Russia's Defence Ministry regularly flies musicians into Syria 'ENSA style' to put on concerts for military personnel and their families. The Russian air force base they were heading for: Hmeymim, is located in Latakia province. Russian air strikes against Syrian rebels, are originated at Hmeymim, making this a prime high security risk installation. The fact that debris from the wrecked aircraft, coupled with the pilots failing to issue any form of Mayday message, suggests that a sudden 'catastrophic event' took place, possibly from an on board explosives device. Examination of the debris 'shards' will determine if the explosion (if any) was from inside, or outside the aircraft. Until flight and data recorders are recovered, this of course is speculation as to the possible cause.
Sources: CNS, Reuters, Interfax, Sputnik,
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