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Russia Finds Flight Data Recorder in Black Sea

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Part of the Russian military passenger plane was lifted onto a ship off the coast of Sochi, Russia, on Tuesday. Credit Vladimir Velengurin/Ministry of Emergency Situations, via Associated Press

MOSCOW — The flight data recorder of the Russian military passenger plane that crashed into the Black Sea near the resort town of Sochi, killing all 92 passengers and crew members on board, has been recovered, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The flight recorder, found about a mile from shore, will be transferred to Moscow for decoding, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Tupolev-154 carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, a famed army choir and orchestra, crashed on Sunday shortly after a refueling stop in Sochi.

Twelve bodies have been recovered, along with 156 human remains, according to the statement, and all were sent to Moscow for identification. Relatives have identified just one victim, it said.

The Russian authorities have not ruled out terrorism as the cause of the crash, but they have said it was unlikely, and the data from the flight recorder could be crucial in determining why the plane went down.

The plane was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble, known for its renditions of classical Russian songs and folk tunes, to Syria to perform a celebratory concert for Russian troops there; nine journalists were also on board, as was Yelizaveta P. Glinka, a prominent philanthropist, who was carrying a shipment of medicine to a hospital in Syria.

The Russian authorities said the Soviet-made airplane, built in 1983, was technically sound and had recently undergone repairs. The pilot was experienced, with 1,900 hours of flying time at the controls of that type of aircraft.

The Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., said in a statement on Monday that “no signs and facts pointing to the possibility of a terrorist act or sabotage on board have been discovered.” The Tupolev-154, once a mainstay of the Soviet air transportation system, has been phased out by most civilian airlines, although it is still used by government agencies.

The F.S.B. offered several theories to explain the crash: bad fuel, pilot error, foreign objects getting sucked into the engine, or a technical malfunction.

When a Russian civilian Airbus went down last year in the Sinai Peninsula, the Russian authorities did not confirm for weeks that a bomb had been responsible, even though the Islamic State claimed responsibility hours after the crash.

In response to the crash on Sunday, Russia started an expansive search-and-recovery operation in the Black Sea involving 45 ships, 12 planes, five helicopters and 192 divers, the Defense Ministry said.

President Vladimir V. Putin declared Monday a day of mourning in Russia, and the country’s television channels played sorrowful music and showed photographs of those who died. Memorial services were conducted throughout the country, with people bringing flowers and candles.

Mr. Putin ordered the deployment of military forces to Syria in September, citing the need to address the terrorist threat there before it reached Russian territory, but so far his main goal appears to have been to prop up the rule of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

The plane crash was the second deadly episode in a week involving Russia and Syria. Andrey G. Karlov, Moscow’s ambassador to Turkey, was assassinated on Dec. 19 by a Turkish gunman who shouted, “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”

Source: NYT > World

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