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Russian plane crash kills 71

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an investigation into the crash of a Saratov Airlines passenger plane southeast of Moscow, killing all 71 people on board.

“The president has instructed the government to set up a special commission over the plane crash in the Moscow region,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Fragments of the An-148 passenger plane and several bodies were found near the village of Stepanovskoye, in the Moscow region’s Ramensky district, a source from Russia’s emergencies ministry said.

State television showed images of the destroyed plane’s pieces.

The plane was bound for the city of Orsk, near the border to Kazakhstan, when it crashed after takeoff from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, an emergency services source said.

Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were on the plane at the time of the crash.

“No one survived,” the source said.

Three non-Russian nationals and three children were among the victims, a spokesman for the search operation headquarters said.

Orsk’s Mayor Andrei Odintsov said that a day of mourning had been declared in the city’s Orenburg region for Monday.

A pilot’s error, unfavorable weather or a technical malfunction were all possible causes of the crash, emergency services said. More than 160 civil defense and national guard members were on the crash site, and Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov was on his way there.

Radio contact was lost several minutes after takeoff, according to Russia’s Air Transport Agency. Saratov Airlines bought the 8-year-old plane from the economy carrier Rossiya in 2017.

Plane crashes in Russia are not uncommon. Since 2010, there have been at least four major accidents involving civilian commercial planes that killed more than 240 people.

The last crash occurred in March 2016, when a Boeing 737-800 on its way from Dubai crashed at the airport of Russia’s western port city Rostov-on-Don. The aircraft, operated by budget carrier FlyDubai, burst into a fireball, killing all 62 people on board.

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