A Russian defence force Tu-154 aircraft carrying 91 people has crashed into the Black Sea, according to reports.
The Russian defence ministry said that the plane carrying musicians from the famous Alexandrov military choir to a New Year concert for troops in Syria went missing soon after taking off from the resort of Sochi on Sunday.
A total of 83 passengers and eight crew were on board when the plane dropped off radar early Sunday.
The ministry later said fragments of the plane, a Soviet-designed three-engine airliner, had been found by rescuers about 1.5km from the shore in water around 50-70 metres deep.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing an unidentified security source, said preliminary data indicated the plane had crashed because of a technical malfunction, Reuters reported.
Those on board included Russian servicemen and artists from the Russian military’s official choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, who were on their way to celebrate the upcoming New Year with air force personnel at the Latakia air base in western Syria, the defence source told RIA. Nine Russian journalists were also on board, it said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Vladimir Putin had been informed of the situation and was being kept abreast of the search operations.