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CAUCASUS >Main black box of crashed Russian plane found in Black Sea

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The main black box of the Syria-bound Russian military plane that crashed into the Black Sea with 92 people onboard has been found in a massive ongoing search operation, authorities said Dec. 27.

“The main black box was found at 5:42 a.m. Moscow time (2:42 a.m. GMT) 1,600 meters from the shore at a depth of 17 meters,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement, later adding that the device had arrived in the Moscow region to be deciphered by experts.   

The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally renowned Red Army Choir, was heading to Russia’s military airbase in Syria when it went down off the coast of Sochi shortly after take-off on Dec. 25.

Investigators have yet to confirm the cause of the crash, but officials have said that an act of terror was not being considered as a possible explanation.

The finding of the black box comes as searchers are scrambling to recover bodies and remaining debris from the aircraft in an operation involving 192 divers, 45 vessels, 12 planes, five helicopters and 15 deep-water machines.  

The Defense Ministry said that five plane fragments, including part of the fuselage and engine, were found overnight 30 meters (98 feet) under water at around 1,700 meters from the shore.  

It told Russian news agencies that searchers had later found an additional three fragments which included landing gear and a portion of the engine.

The ministry said a total of 12 bodies and 156 body fragments had been recovered from the sea since the crash, all of which are being sent to Moscow for DNA identification.  

Russia has grounded all Tupolev-154 planes until it understands why one of the ageing Soviet planes crashed into the Black Sea, the Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source as saying on Dec. 27, according to Reuters. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Dec. 27 he will aim to quickly restore the country’s signature Red Army Choir, which lost most of its singers in the weekend’s military plane crash, AFP reported.

Sixty-four members, including the conductor Valery Khalilov and most singers of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir internationally, died in the accident. 

Shoigu said that he will do what is necessary “so that we can restore the troupe in the nearest future, as much as we could, hold auditions, pick the best people, so that they continue the traditions that the Alexandrov Ensemble is known for.” 

To entice the best musical talent to join the army’s official choir, Shoigu said he will soon order the allocation of 70 flats to the ensemble, which would be offered to new members.

He added that a military music school will be named after conductor Khalilov, calling him a “legend” who revived the army’s orchestral traditions.

December/27/2016

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