No report of survivors among the 92 people aboard the plane. The tragedy is especially poignant because 64 of the passengers were members of Russia's great Alexandrov Ensemble choir and orchestra; it reminds me of the plane crash in 1961 that killed the entire U.S. figure skating team.
Sputnik, which is updating its report as developments come available, mentions that the weather during the flight was good, that the plane went through routine maintenance in September and the pilot was "experienced." And this:
Elizaveta Glinka, famous Russian charity leader was reportedly among the passengers of the crashed aircraft, delivering medication for a university hospital in Latakia, Syria.
Her charity fund, "Fair Help", provides material support and medical aid to those who need it. Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, or Dr. Lisa, as she is known in Russia and Ukraine, is a doctor who gives hope to those who have lost it. She is also a blogger and a charity activist. [Photo: RIA Novosti. Kirill Kallinikov]
Russian military plane crashes in Black Sea near Sochi
December 25, 2016 - 5:30am ET [updated]
A Russian military plane with 92 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea, Russia's defence ministry says.
The plane disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from the resort of Sochi at 05:25 (02:25 GMT). Debris and several bodies have been found, with no reports of survivors.
The defence ministry said the Tu-154 was carrying soldiers, 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble, and nine reporters.
It was flying to Latakia in Syria.
The flight originated in Moscow and had landed at Adler airport in Sochi for refuelling.
The defence ministry said in a statement: "Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5km (one mile) from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50 to 70m (165-230ft)."
An audio recording played on Russian media and said to be of the final conversation between air traffic controllers and the plane reveals no sign of any difficulties being faced by the crew.
Voices remain calm until the plane disappears and the controllers try in vain to re-establish contact.
Reports from the area said flying conditions were favourable.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state commission to look into the crash and sent his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
The defence ministry has published a passenger list (in Russian), showing that 64 of those on board were from the Alexandrov Ensemble, including its director, Valery Khalilov.
There were nine journalists, eight soldiers, two civil servants and eight crew members.
Also on board was Elizaveta Glinka, known as Dr Liza, the executive director of the Fair Aid charity and the inaugural winner of Russia's state prize for achievements in human rights.
Mr Konashenkov said the plane was carrying passengers to a New Year's performance for Russian troops deployed in Syria.
The performance was scheduled to take place at Russia's Hmeimim air base, near Latakia.