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Defense Ministry says crashed Tu-154 'technically sound' before flight

December 25, 2016, 21:25 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The military pilot in command, Roman Volkov, had flown that route more than once

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© Marina Lystseva/TASS

MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. The Tu-154 plane that crashed on Sunday over the Black Sea near Sochi, was in a technically sound state before the takeoff, Sergei Bainetov, the chief of the Russian armed forces’ flight safety service, said.

"The plane was technically sound. The latest maintenance works were conducted in September 2016," he said, adding that the pilot in command, military pilot Roman Volkov, had flown this route more than once.

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) shortly after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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 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 more than 60 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.

The Defense Ministry said that debris from the Tu-154 had been found 1.5 km off the coast of Sochi at the depth of 50-70 meters. Some ten dead bodies of the crash victims have been found. It seems no one has survived. A search operation is underway.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to set up and head a government commission to look into the Tu-154 plane crash. The Investigative Committee announced that a criminal case was opened based on "the violation of rules of flights safety or preparation for them."

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