A Russian military plane carrying 92 people, including soldiers, Red Army Choir members, and journalists crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, killing everyone on board, Russian authorities said.
The airplane was heading to Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province. It is from there that Russia launches air strikes against Syrian rebel forces and Syrian civilians,
The Russian Defence Ministry said one of its TU-154 Tupolev planes had disappeared from radar screens at 0525 MSK (9.25 p.m. ET), two minutes after taking off from Sochi in southern Russia, where it had stopped to refuel from Moscow, on its way to Syria.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, told reporters that nobody had survived.
“The area of the crash site has been established. No survivors have been spotted,” he said. An unnamed ministry source told Russian news agencies no life rafts had been found, while another source told the Interfax agency that the plane had not sent an SOS signal.
At least 60 were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, better known internationally as the Red Army Choir, and were being flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria to entertain troops in the New Year festival and the celebration of the “declared victory” in Aleppo.
Nine Russian reporters were also on board as well as military servicemen and soldiers.
Assad sends condolences
Bashar al-Assad told Russia on Sunday he was saddened by the incident.
In a condolence message sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad said the two countries were partners in the “fight to lay the foundations of stability, security, and peace” in Syria.
“Our prayers are with you … our sorrows and joys are one,” Assad told Putin.
“The plane had dear friends who had come to join us and the people of Aleppo in their joy with victory and Christmas feasts.” Russian-backed Syrian forces ousted the last rebels from the city of Aleppo on Thursday after years of fighting.
Assad has previously thanked Russia for its role in achieving what he called victory in Aleppo against the rebel forces.
“The liberation of Aleppo is not only a victory for Syria but also for those who really contribute to the fight against terrorism, notably Russia and Iran,” he said.
Assad seemed in 2015 on the verge of being overthrown. Then Russia launched its military intervention, and Iran increased the number of its forces in Syria tilting the ride of war in Assad regime’s favor.
Russia said its intervention aims at backing the Syrian government agaisnt ISIS and the other “terrorist groups” and they will not attack civilians.
Since then, at least 9,364 people have been killed in Russian raids, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The monitor said the death toll included about 3,800 civilians and 5,500 fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS).
A further 20,000 civilians have been wounded in Russia’s year-long offensive of air strikes.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.