MOSCOW, December 26. /TASS/. Russia is observing on Monday a nationwide day of mourning in remembrance of 92 people, who died in a passenger aircraft crash near the resort city of Sochi in the early hours of Sunday, December 25.
The day of mourning was proclaimed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree on Sunday following the Tu-154 tragedy. All national flags in the country on Monday will be flying half-mast, while all cultural and entertainment activities dedicated to upcoming New Year festivities will be cancelled, including on national television channels.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane disappeared 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 on early Sunday.
There were 92 people on board the aircraft in total, including eight crew members and 84 passengers. Among the passengers was the Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund, Elizaveta Glinka, better known to the Russian public as Dr. Liza, as well as military servicemen and nine reporters, from Russian television channels Channel One, Zvezda and NTV.
The plane was also carrying 68 members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian Armed Forces. The ensemble was on its way to celebrate the New Year with the group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria. The choir’s conductor Valery Khalilov was also among the passengers.
The Defense Ministry said that fragments of the crashed Tu-154 had been discovered some 1.5 kilometers off the coast of Sochi at the depth of 50-70 meters. Eleven bodies of the crash victims have been found. No one has survived. A large-scale search and rescue operation is underway.