Photo taken on Dec. 25, 2016 shows a vessel and a helicopter taking part in a rescue operation on the Black Sea coast at the crash site of Russian Defense Ministry's TU-154 aircraft. The wreckage of a missing Russian military Tu-154 aircraft has been found in the Black Sea, Defense Ministry authorities said on Sunday. (Xinhua/Sputnik)
MOSCOW, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- The wreckage of a missing Russian military Tu-154 aircraft has been found in the Black Sea, Defense Ministry authorities said Sunday.
The ill-fated plane, carrying 91 people en route to the Syrian port city of Latakia, vanished from the radar screens shortly after taking off from the resort city of Sochi, according to preliminary reports.
"Fragments of the Russian Defense Ministry's TU-154 aircraft were discovered in 1.5 kilometers from the Black Sea shore of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters," the ministry's press service said.
The plane was conducting a routine flight to Russia's Hmeimim air base near Latakia, said the ministry, adding that among those on board were Russian servicemen and members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the Russian army's official choir, who were headed to the base for New Year celebrations.
There were also nine media representatives on board, the ministry noted.
Based on preliminary information, the misfortune was caused by technical malfunction or pilot error, a law enforcement source was quoted as saying.
Russia's Investigative Committee said it has launched a criminal case over the crash.
The Tu-154 is a three-engine medium-range airliner produced by Russian aerospace and defense company Tupolev. It is one of the fastest civilian aircraft in use and widely used in extreme Arctic conditions.