In Summary
  • Rescuers searched through deep snow for body parts and debris following the disaster.
  • Russia's Aviation Committee said they recovered the black box from the scene on Monday.
  • Witnesses said they heard a crash or felt an explosive force when the plane came down.

MOSCOW

Investigators on Monday began examining a black box containing flight data about the Russian passenger plane which crashed near Moscow minutes after take-off, killing all 71 people on board.

Rescuers searched through deep snow for body parts and debris following the disaster, the country's deadliest air crash since 2016.

BLACK BOX

The Antonov An-148 plane went down in a snow-covered field, making it difficult to access, with emergency workers forced to reach the wreckage by foot or on snowmobiles.

Russia's Aviation Committee said the black box was recovered from the scene on Monday, adding that "some 400 pieces of the plane" have also been found.

The accident happened in Ramensky District around 70 kilometres southeast of Moscow on Sunday after the plane departed from Domodedovo Airport outside the Russian capital and disappeared off the radar at 2.28 pm (1128 GMT).

Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were on board and all of them died, the Investigative Committee said.

Three victims were children, including a five-year-old girl.

The victims' remains were so damaged that genetic testing is required, investigators said.

SEARCH

The flight was operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines and was headed for the city of Orsk in the Orenburg region close to Russia's border with Kazakhstan.

On Monday, rescuers in dark uniforms trudged across the site in formation, using shovels to shift snow around 40 centimetres (16 inches) deep, an AFP video journalist saw.

The search, involving more than 1,000 people and 200 vehicles, could last "about a week", transport minister Maxime Sokolov said.

It was made difficult by the large wreckage site, spread over more than 30 hectares, heavy snow and difficult terrain.

CONDOLENCES

President Vladimir Putin sent condolences and "is constantly receiving information" about the crash, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Putin -- who is running for re-election in a March 18 poll -- cancelled plans to travel to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Monday, and instead held the meeting in Moscow.

The Investigative Committee, which is probing the crash of the eight-year-old plane, said the aircraft caught fire on the ground after crashing.

"At the moment of falling, the aeroplane was intact, without a fire. An explosion took place after the plane crashed," it said, adding it is looking into various factors including the pilots' training and the plane's technical state.

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