Russian Plan Crashes
Putin told a meeting of European justice ministers in Moscow, ”A civilian aircraft has crashed today… and it is possible that it was the result of a terrorist attack.”
The TU-154 Sibir airlines jet took off from the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel bound for the Siberian town of Novosibirsk.
The plane went down 114 miles off the Russian coastal city of Adler, located on the border with Georgia, according to Vasily Yurchuck, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
An Armenian pilot who says he witnessed the crash described the plane catching fire, exploding, and then falling in fragments into the sea below.
Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s domestic FSB security service, said witnesses “saw the plane blow up in the air.”
News organizations reported theories the plane could have been felled by a missile fired during a Ukrainian military exercise.
But Ukraine’s Defense Ministry told Reuters its forces did not cause the crash.
“Neither the direction nor the range [of the missiles] correspond to the practical or theoretical point at which the plane exploded. So the Ukrainian military has no involvement, either practical or theoretical, in this accident,” Defense Ministry spokesman Konstantin Khivrenko said.
Reuters says one of its reporters witnessed live missile-firing exercises on the east side of the Crimean peninsula today, with surface-to-air missiles aimed at at least 20 airborne drone targets.
The exercises were monitored by Ukrainian and Russian ships in the Black Sea, the reporter said.
The plane crashed in a part of the Black Sea that is a half-mile deep. President Putin said the recovery effort will begin immediately.
“We must launch rescue work, gather all we can and conduct expertise. If the sea depth allows that, we must try to recover the black box,” Putin said.
In the wake of the crash, Israeli authorities suspended all fights from the Ben-Gurion airport.
Israel’s Transport Ministry told the Reuters it was investigating all theories behind the crash, including possible sabotage.
Pinni Schiff, deputy chief of the Israel Airports Authority, said the plane underwent all the usual security checks and that “chances were close to zero” that anyone could carry a bomb through Ben-Gurion, where security is among the world’s toughest.