Moscow: Russia held a national day of mourning on Monday, a day after a Syria-bound military plane crashed into the Black Sea killing all 92 people on board, and expanded a search operation to try to recover passengers` bodies and the jet`s black box.
The plane, a Russian Defence Ministry TU-154, was carrying dozens of Red Army Choir singers, dancers and orchestra members to Syria where they were meant to entertain Russian troops in the run-up to the New Year.
Nine Russian reporters were also on board as well as military servicemen and Elizaveta Glinka, a prominent member of President Vladimir Putin`s advisory human rights council.Elizaveta Glinka, a prominent member of President Vladimir Putin`s advisory human rights council.
Flags were flown at half-mast on Monday, mourners placed flowers at the airport in Sochi, southern Russia, where the plane took off from, and in front of the Moscow headquarters of the Russian Army`s Alexandrov song and dance troupe.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told reporters on Monday that pilot error or a technical fault were the most likely explanations for the tragedy.
"The main versions (for the crash) do not include the idea of a terrorist act," Sokolov told a news conference in Sochi, the RIA news agency reported.
"So we are working on the assumption that the reasons for the catastrophe could have been technical or a pilot error."
The jet, a Soviet-era Tupolev plane built in 1983, had been carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a Defence Ministry spokesman, said on Monday that 11 bodies had been recovered so far and that a huge sea and air search operation involving around 3,500 people was being expanded.
Thirty nine ships, five helicopters, a drone, and more than 100 divers were involved, he said, and soldiers were scouring the Black Sea coastline as well.