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Minister says terror attack not main version of Tu-154 crash in Sochi

The investigatots can only assume at this stage that the cause of the crash could be either technical malfunction or pilot error

MOSCOW, December 26. /TASS/. An act of terror is not seen as the main version of the Tu-154 crash in Sochi, Russian Transport Minister, Maxim Sokolov, who leads the government commission probing into the crash, said on Monday.

"Today, as far as we know, the major versions do not include the terrorist attack, so we assume that the cause of the crash could be either technical malfunction or pilot error. I will emphasize, however, that this will be established by investigators as well as special technical commission of the Russian Defense Ministry," Sokolov told a press briefing after a meeting of the commission to investigate the disaster broadcast live by the Russia 24 TV channel.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane disappeared from radar screens at 05.40 am Moscow time (02.40 a.m. GMT) shortly after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi in the small hours of Sunday morning.

There were 92 people on board the aircraft, including eight crew members. 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 Russia's Channel One, Zvezda and NTV networks.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 Russian 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.