MOSCOW — The Russian Defense Ministry said that “no survivors are seen” from the Tu-154 military plane that crashed Sunday in the Black Sea off the coast of Sochi.
The plane, which was carrying 93 people, including a renowned choir to perform for the holidays at a Russian airbase in Syria, crashed shortly after takeoff, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
By Sunday evening, at least 10 bodies had been recovered from the crash site, with major debris found about a mile from the coast, Konashenkov said. About 3,000 people are participating in the search operation, which has spread over 6 square miles.
The Russian military’s most prominent choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, was travelling to Syria’s coastal region of Latakia to perform at the Khmeimim airbase, Russia’s main base of operations for its military campaign in the Syrian civil war.
The plane was carrying more than 60 musicians, including the choir’s conductor, Lt. Gen. Valery Khalilov, and nine journalists, according to a list published on the Defense Ministry’s website.
Russian federal investigators opened a criminal case on the crash on charges of disobeying aviation rules, the Investigative Committee said in a statement on its website.
Designed in the late 1960s and with more than a thousand produced, Tu-154s were one of the main airliners of the Soviet Union and its successor states for decades until they began to be phased out in recent years.
The planes have been involved in almost a dozen major crashes since 2000, killing more than 800 people, including Poland’s then-president Lech Kaczynski near the Russian city of Smolensk in 2010.