Russian Intelligence Investigating Whether Crash of Tu-154 Was Terrorist Attack: Defense Ministry Source

December 25, 2016
First responders at the scene of a Russian military air crash December 25, 2016 in the Black Sea, killing all 92 aboard. Photo by Artur Lebedev/TASS

LIVE UPDATES: The FSB is investigating whether a military plane that crashed this morning, killing all 92 on board, was targeted by terrorists, Fontanka reports, citing a Defense Ministry source.

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Russian Experts Debate Whether Explosion Could Have Caused Tu-154 Crash in Black Sea

The independent radio station and news site Ekho Moskvy has reported on the debate of Russian experts over the cause of the crash of Tu-154 bound to Syria, killing all 92 on board.

Official investigators are not saying anything about an explosion or any kind of terrorist attack, although one source has told Fontanka that the FSB is investigating that possibility.

An excerpt from the Ekho Moskvy report translated by The Interpreter:

The circumstances of the crash of the passenger liner give grounds for the most diverse suppositions about the fate of the plane. The large area of scattered debris, and also the fact that the crew did not report any problems to ground control may indiated a sudden destruction of the plane, due to an explosion. Such a hypothesis was given in an interview with RosBalt by Aleksandr Romanov, an expert on flight safety.

Maj. Andrei Krasnopyorov of the Russian Air Force indicated an explosion was possible to Kommersant. Komsomolskaya pravda has discussed whether a terrorist saboteur could have penetrated the airport personnel. 

In an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets, pilot Sergei Knyshov admitted the possibility of attacks from a portable anti-aircraft missile system. Meanwhile, a source of Interfax in the emergency services essentially rules out the possibility of a terrorist attack. In his words, the scattering of the pieces could be explained by a heavy blow to the surface of the water. The Interfax source does not admit the possibility of sabotage at the dual-use airport in Sochi which is guarded under a reinforced regimen.

Earlier Interfax, with a reference to anonymous sources, said a technical of the plan was the main reason being investigated. Pilot error is considered unlikely given the great experience of the pilots. The weather conditions during the flight were favorable.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russian Intelligence Investigating Whether Crash of Tu-154 Was Terrorist Attack: Defense Ministry Source

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that the crash of the military jet Tu-154 this morning, December 25 bound for Syria, killing all 92 on board, is being thoroughly investigated and all those affected will be compensated. No official reason has been given yet for the crash, but “technical problems” have been sited rather than “pilot error” in state media reports.

The flight was bound to Latakia, Syria, and carried mainly members of the Red Army Choir who were going to entertain Russian troops at the Hmeemeem Air Base.

Fontanka, an independent news site in St. Petersburg which has covered the war in Syria critically reports that a source within the Russian Defense Ministry has said that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was investigating everyone who came in contact with the plane in Chkalovsky, the military airport in Shchyolkovo, Moscow Region and Adler District, the location of the Sochi Airport where the plain stopped to refuel.

The Defense Ministry has already published a complete list of all the passengers killed. 

On board were 8 crew members, 8 military personnel; 2 civil servants; the conductor and 64 members of the Aleksandrov Ensemble, better known as the Red Army Choir; and 9 journalists, from NTV, the Defense Ministry’s TV station Zvezda, and state Channel 1.

LifeNews has reported that one high-ranking Defense Ministry official, Vladimir Ivanovsky, head of military police, was allegedly on board, although his name was not on the Defense Ministry’s list.

Also on board was Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, known popularly as “Dr. Liza,” who ran a controversial mission to treat children in the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic”. Dr. Glinka, who recently received a presidential award for her humanitarian work was a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, which confirmed she was on board the flight. She had intended to take medications to Latakia.

The flight left Adler and crashed in the Black Sea within 20 minutes. First responders have only recovered 4 bodies.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick