Russia has declared a day of national mourning after a military transport aircraft went down in the Black Sea. The flight was en route to a Russian military base in Syria. All 92 on board the aircraft are presumed dead, with Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the Prime Minister to head an investigation into the incident.
"Russia's Defence Ministry confirmed its Tu-154 plane crashed about 1.5 km off the Black Sea coast with 92 fatalities. Fragments of the Tu-154 plane were discovered off the coast near the city of Sochi hours after it disappeared from radars 2 minutes after takeoff.
"At 05:27 (0227 GMT) we lost the mark of the Defence Ministry plane from our radar. On board were eight crew members and 84 passengers. They are soldiers of the Defence Ministry. Also onboard was the Alexandrov Ensemble who were flying to congratulate Russian army units in Syria with a New Year (performance), and nine people from Russian media," said Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman.
People started bringing flowers to the building of the theatre where the Alexandrov Military Band is located to pay their respects.
"The loss of the Ensemble is a loss for the entire Russian people. I am speaking without any pathos. They were flying to support the spir it of those guys and girls who are en avant guard of the frontline defending our peace today," said Valery, military veteran.
"It is a common grief for all of us. And when young people die in peaceful times - it's a tragedy. Not only for the close ones and family members, but it's a tragedy for each and everyone of us," said Tatyana, retired pensioner.
Among the passengers was a prominent charity worker Elizaveta Glinka, widely known in Russia as Dr.Liza. She was accompanying a humanitarian aid cargo destined for a hospital in Latakia in Syria.
The Russian Defence and Emergencies ministries have dispatched helicopters, ships, emergency rescue teams and divers to the crash site.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash. And pledged a thorough investigation into the tragedy.
"There will be a detailed investigation of the cause of the crash and (we) will do everything to support families of the dead," said president Putin.
Russia's President has ordered for Monday, December 26 to be a day of mourning in Russia for the victims of the crash. While Rescue operations continue, it may take a while before the cause of the crash is established.