MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft has expressed condolences to Russians over the Tu-154 plane crash in the Black Sea near Sochi, spokesperson at US Embassy in Moscow Maria Olson wrote on her Twitter page on Sunday.
"Tefft: our thoughts, prayers with the loved ones of passengers, crew of Tu-154, and with the Russian people," Olson wrote.
The Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane disappeared from radars at 05.40 a.m. Moscow time (02.40 a.m. GMT) shortly after taking off from Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The latest data from Russia's Defense Ministry suggests 92 people were on board the plane - 8 crew members and 84 passengers. Among them was Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund Elizaveta Glinka, known as Dr. Liza, as well as servicemen and reporters, including from the Channel One, Zvezda and NTV.
The plane also carried more than 60 members of the famous Alexandrov ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian armed forces, who flew to congratulate the air group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria with the New Year. The choir’s head Valery Khalilov was also on the list of the passengers.
The Defense Ministry said the debris of the Tu-154 plane was found 1.5 km from the coast near Sochi at the depth of 50-70 meters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to set up and head a government commission on the investigation of the Tu-154 plane crash. The Investigative Committee has criminal case has been opened into "the violation of rules of flights safety or preparation for them."