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A Russian Tu-154 plane with 93 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea, the defense ministry has said.

The military plane disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from the resort of Sochi at 05:25AM local time. Debris and one body have been found, with no reports of any survivors.

The Russian defense ministry said the Tu-154 was carrying soldiers, 65 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble, and nine reporters.

The plane was flying to Latakia in Syria.

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

The Russian defense ministry said in a statement: “Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defense ministry were found 1.5km [one mile] from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70m [165-230ft.”

Image source WIkimedia

An audio recording played on Russian media and said to be of the final conversation between air traffic controllers and the plane reveals no sign of any difficulties being faced by the crew.

Voices remain calm until the plane disappears and the controllers try in vain to re-establish contact.

Reports from the area said flying conditions were favorable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state commission to look into the crash and sent his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

The defense ministry has published a passenger list, showing that 65 of those on board were from the Alexandrov Ensemble, including its director, Valery Khalilov.

There were 9 journalists, 8 soldiers, two civil servants and eight crew members.

Also on board was Elizaveta Glinka, known as Dr. Liza, the executive director of the Fair Aid charity and the inaugural winner of Russia’s state prize for achievements in human rights.

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 who are battling rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Russian air forces have begun a large exercise involving around 250 aircraft and 12,000 service personnel.

The Russian defense ministry described the four-day drill as a “massive surprise inspection”, to check combat readiness.

The tests began on the same day as NATO and some of its partners started an Arctic training exercise.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and incursions into Western airspace have led to rising tensions with the West.

According to reports on the Russian agencies Interfax and Tass, the inspection of the aviation group and air defense forces in the central military district involves almost 700 weapons and pieces of military hardware.Russian air forces exercise

During the exercise, Russia’s long-range aircraft are due to carry out cruise missile strikes on practice targets in the Komi republic.

The current drills are in preparation for a larger exercise known as Center-2015 in the next few months.

Asked about Russia’s assertiveness in a TV interview, Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin joked that “tanks don’t need visas”.

Dmitry Rogozin is himself on EU and US blacklists as part of sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, limiting his travel options.

Russia has been heavily criticized in recent months over increased air activity around the Nordic countries, including several airspace violations by military aircraft.

NATO’s two-week training exercise in the region – which began on the same day as Russia’s tests – will be based in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

It will involve 115 fighter planes and 3,600 troops from nine countries.

NATO’s Arctic Challenge Exercise will also involve troops and planes from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands as well as neutral Switzerland.

The exercise is the second of its kind, following similar tests in 2013.