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MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. A total of 27 ships and vessels of the Black Sea fleet are taking part in the search operation in the area of the Tu-154 crash off the Sochi coast, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
"We are increasing the search and rescue group in the area of the crash of the Defense Ministry's Tu-154 plane. A total of 27 ships and vessels, 37 divers, four helicopters, drones and remotely operated submersibles are taking part in the operation," the ministry said.
The ministry said the area of the search effort will cover 10.5 square kilometers.
More than 100 divers will be additionally sent to the area of the Tu-154 crash off the Sochi coast, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday. "Over 100 divers with special equipment will be additionally brought from other fleets to the plane crash area," the ministry said.
More than 3,000 people are taking part in the search and rescue operation.
A Tu-154 plane from Russia’s Ministry of Defense vanished from radar screens at 05.40 a.m. Moscow time (02.40 a.m. GMT), two minutes after taking off from the airport of Adler, Sochi, where it was refueled.
According to the latest information from Russia's Defense Ministry, there were 92 people on board the aircraft, consisting of 8 crew members and 84 passengers. Among them was the Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund, Elizaveta Glinka, also better known to the Russian public as Dr. Liza, as well as servicemen and reporters, including from Channel One, Zvezda and NTV.
The plane was also carrying 64 members of the famous Alexandrov ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian armed forces, who set off to celebrate the New Year with the air group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria. The choir’s conductor Valery Khalilov was also on the list of passengers.