Russia’s defence ministry has identified the military Tupolev Tu-154 which came down in the Black Sea after departing Sochi.
It lists the airframe as RA-85572, a Tu-154B variant, which Flight Fleets Analyzer shows as a 33-year old jet originally ordered by the Soviet air force in 1981.
The defence ministry has issued a manifest identifying 93 occupants of the aircraft, of whom 65 were members of the famed Alexandrov Ensemble choir of the Russian armed forces.
They had been travelling on board the jet along with eight crew members, representatives of the media, and a group of forces personnel.
In a briefing on the situation the defence ministry indicates that the aircraft, having taken off towards the south-west at 05:25, did not gain height but instead turned right over the Black Sea, apparently heading back to the coast before losing contact a few kilometres from the Russian shore.
There is no immediate information on the reasons behind the flight’s track. The aircraft, powered by Kuznetsov NK-8 engines, had been bound for Syria.
Russia’s emergency situations ministry states that deep-water apparatus will be sent to the area, adding that the approximate depth is 80-110m. The ministry will also deploy an Ilyushin Il-76 transport to Sochi with divers and specialised underwater search equipment.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to establish a government commission to investigate the circumstances of the crash, says a formal statement from the Kremlin.