A Russian Defense Ministry Tu-154 aircraft en route to Syria crashed into the Black Sea early on Dec. 25 some one mile off the coast near Sochi.
Reports on the number and identity of passengers vary. So far it has been confirmed that the people onboard included 68 members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble, 9 journalists and 8 crew members. Emergencies Ministry search and rescue teams have already recovered at least 10 bodies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to set up a state commission and to take the investigation under his personal control.
According to Russian media reports, the incident occurred as the aircraft was picking up altitude. However, the crew did not send out any distress signals.
Emergencies Ministry and Investigations Committee experts are now working at the scene. They have obtained documents related to the flight and are now questioning relevant officials and airport technical staff.
Asked what could have happened to the aircraft in such a short period of time following take-off, Gerry Soejatman, independent aviation consultant, said that “the weather is not a major issue. It is probably either a mechanical or crew error.”
Commenting on the reliability of Tupolev planes, Soejatman said: “They’ve sold thousands of them. It was the backbone of civil aviation back in the Soviet days. They have had problems, but they’ve made updates to it, though they are not being used a lot [for] civilians. The later-built ones are quite OK.”
“The age for the airplane depends on how many hours does it have flying. It is not about the calendar days. If this plane has been for the Russian military through its career then, it might have had a low usage rate. So, it is still relatively young. The type itself is over 40 years old,” Soejatman added.
President Donald Trump will end the CIA program authorized by his predecessor in 2013 to arm Syrian rebel groups against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The decision comes just more than three months after Trump ordered the US Navy to launch dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield that Assad had used to carry out a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians.
But the termination of the often-troubled program reflects what is currently one of his biggest priorities: improving relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This is a momentous decision," a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program, told The Post. "Putin won in Syria."
The Russian Ministry of Defense has published a series of aerial images that show US special forces equipment on Daesh-controlled areas near Deir ez-Zor in Syria. No trace of fighting would have been found.
The Russian Ministry of Defense published on Facebook on September 24 a series of aerial photos, which were allegedly taken north of Deir ez-Zor, Syria, in areas controlled by Daesh. One could distinguish the equipment of the American special forces.
According to the text of the Russian communiqué accompanying the publication, these images would prove that "American troops feel absolutely safe in areas controlled by terrorists".
"The US special forces allow the SDS [the military coalition of the Syrian Democratic Forces] supported by Washington to cross the positions of Daesh without hindrance," the ministry said.
"Without resistance from the Daesh militants, the troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces are heading towards the city of Deir ez-Zor, along the left bank of the Euphrates," the statement said.