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Over 60 Red Army Choir members on board crashed Russian jet: ministry

Moscow: More than 60 members of the internationally-renowned Red Army Choir were on board a Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea on Sunday, Russia’s defence ministry said.

A list of passengers and crew published by the ministry showed that 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army’s official musical group, and its conductor Valery Khalilov were on board the Tu-154 travelling to Syria to celebrate the New Year with Russian troops.

Earlier, Russia’s defence ministry said a body had been recovered from the Black Sea after a Syria-bound military plane carrying 91 people crashed Sunday, local news agencies reported.

“The body of a person killed as a result the crash of the Russian defence ministry’s Tu-154 was found six kilometres off the coast of Sochi,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told agencies. “The body was taken on board of a rescue ship.”

The Russian military plane with 91 passengers on board went missing on Sunday just minutes after take-off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Local news agencies, citing the defence ministry, said the Tu-154 plane had crashed shortly after taking off from the southern city of Adler, south of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, at 5:40 am local time (0240 GMT).

Its debris was soon found in the Black Sea, along with luggage belonging to passengers.

“Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5 kilometres from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70 metres,” the ministry said, adding that search and rescue groups had been dispatched earlier Sunday to locate the missing.

It was conducting a routine flight to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase outside the coastal Syrian city of Latakia, the ministry said.

A military music band and reporters were aboard the aircraft. There were nine members of the media on board.

The plane disappeared from radar 20 minutes after take-off at 05:20 local time (7:40 am IST).

The aircraft went missing as it was manoeuvring over Russia’s territorial waters.

Among its 83 passengers were Russian servicemen as well as members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army’s official musical group internationally known as the Red Army Choir, who were headed to Syria to participate in New Year celebrations at the airbase.

There were also eight crew members onboard, the ministry said.

Nine members of the media were among the passengers, with state-run channel Pervy Kanal saying three of its staff were onboard the flight.

AFP