A Russian passenger aircraft with 71 on board crashed minutes after takeoff outside Moscow on Sunday and there are no survivors, officials said.
The plane was an An-148, a regional jet belonging to Saratov Airlines, that had taken off from Domodedovo Airport and was headed to Orsk about 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow, REN-TV reported.
The Moscow Inter-Regional Transport Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement to Interfax that all people on board the plane have died.
“The plane was carrying 65 passengers and six crewmembers. All of them died,” the agency’s press service said in a statement.
A source from Russia’s emergency services told Interfax those on board “had no chance” of survival, and that the wreckage from the plane was spread over a wide area around the crash site.
Authorities have found a black box belonging to the aircraft and have cordoned off the area of the crash site, regional head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Sergei Poletykin said in a conference call.
“One recorder was found at the crash site,” Poletykin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed a planned trip to Sochi to closely monitor the investigation and offered his condolences to the families of those killed. He also ordered an investigation into the crash, according to Interfax.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement that Putin “expresses deep condolences to all those who lost their relatives and friends in this disaster.”
“The president instructed the government to set up a special commission in connection with the plane crash in the Moscow region and instructed the relevant agencies to conduct the necessary search operations,” Peskov told Interfax.
Putin was to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in the Black Sea resort where the president has an official residence. Instead, Abbas will meet with Putin in Moscow in the latter part of Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.
Fragments of the jet were found in the Ramenskoye area about 25 miles from the airport, according to REN-TV. Footage on state television showed them strewn across a snowy field with no buildings nearby. It was unclear if there were any casualties among people on the ground at the crash site.
The flight took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport and spent about 5 minutes in the air before a signal was lost about 12 miles southeast of the airport, according to Flightradar24, a flight-tracking website.
Witnesses in the village told local media they saw a burning plane falling from the sky, according to Sky News.
A local resident told REN-TV she heard an explosion.
“I left the house, saw the plane, an explosion was heard and the sky turned red,” the unnamed woman told the television station.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry said in a tweet the recovery process would involve 150 people and 20 vehicles, and that the crash scene was only accessible on foot due to weather conditions.
It is not immediately clear what caused the crash, with weather conditions and pilot error said to be among the possible reasons. Russia’s Investigative Committee said all possible crash causes were being looked into.
Russia’s state news agency Tass said the plane had been flying since 2010, with a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.
The plane, an Antonov An-148 jet, was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, but was put into storage during 2015-2017 because of a lack of parts. Tass reports it re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017. The jet was developed by Ukraine’s Antonov company in the early 2000s, and was manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.
While it remains to be seen what caused the crash on Sunday, shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly in recent years.
The last large-scale crash in Russia occurred on Dec. 25, 2016, when a Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry on its way to Syria crashed into the Black Sea minutes after takeoff from the southern Russian city of Sochi. All 92 people on board were killed.
In March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 flown by FlyDubai crashed while landing at Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people aboard.
An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Metrojet airliner soon after taking off from Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 244 people in October 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
« La nuit dernière vers 19h00, il y a eu des assaillants, assimilés pratiquement au groupe des ADF parce qu’ils sont venus, encore une fois, de la brousse vers le parc naturel de Virunga. Ils ont donc fait incursion dans la localité de Njite-Mavivi, à 12 km, au nord de la ville de Beni. Ils ont tué cinq personnes et ils ont brûlé des maisons. Il y a également des portés disparus. Des déplacés ont quitté la zone pour se réfugier vers la ville de Beni. C’est donc une grande inquiétude et une psychose qui règnent au sein de la population parce qu’on savait qu’il y avait, là-bas, des positions des FARDC et que la Monusco est presque à un kilomètre du lieu du drame », a-t-il évoqué.
Selon le gouverneur du Nord-Kivu, Julien Paluku, les ADF mèneraient ces attaques, aux abords de Beni, pour attirer les Forces armées congolaises déployées dans les forêts du parc National de Virunga. Il s’agit d’une stratégie déjà utilisée en 2014. Le gouverneur a assuré à RFI que les 4 000 hommes déployés dans cette zone de Beni par l’état-major général devrait permettre d’éradiquer ces attaques des ADF « dans les mois qui suivent ».