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Wreckage of crashed Russian Tu-154 plane recovered

MOSCOW — Divers have recovered the wreckage of the Russian Tu-154 aircraft that crashed Sunday into the Black Sea after take off from the resort city of Sochi, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday.

The divers have already raised to the surface two elements of the steering unit, which have been identified by their serial numbers as those belonging to the crashed plane, the ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

The fragments were found at a depth of 30 meters and some 1,700 meters off the coastline, he said, adding that debris of the crashed plane was scattered on the territory with a radius of around 500 meters.

Over 3,500 people, as well as 45 ships, 12 airplanes, 10 helicopters, three drones and several deep-submergence vehicles are currently participating in the search and rescue operation.

The ill-fated Tu-154, en route to Russia’s Hmeimim air base in the Syrian port city of Latakia, crashed shortly after take off from Sochi early Sunday morning.

Ninety-two people — 84 passengers and eight crew members — were aboard the plane. Most of them were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, a renowned choir of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as nine Russian journalists. They were heading to the air base for New Year celebrations.

Russia held a nationwide day of mourning on Monday. Flags were flown at half-mast at the signature buildings and government workplaces in Moscow. People laid flowers in front of the Moscow headquarters of the Alexandrov Ensemble.

The Defense Ministry denied reports that some of the crash victims were seen wearing life jackets.

The authorities have ruled out the possibility of a terror attack, saying the main reasons of the crash may be technical failure or pilot errors.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev said the flight recorders of the aircraft remain intact.

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