Russian plane with 71 crashes near Moscow

Russian plane with 71 crashes near Moscow

Stepanovskoye: A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed near Moscow on Sunday minutes after taking off, killing everyone on board in one of the country's worst ever aviation disasters.

Local reports suggest that the plane crashed near Argunovo villages, just 80km outside of Moscow.

It was unclear if there were any casualties among people on the ground at the crash site.

TV footage from the crash site showed airplane fragments lying in the snow.

The agency said: "The An-148 passenger plane of the Saratov Airlines [flight 730 from Moscow to Orsk] took off from the Domodedovo airport at 14.21pm Moscow time".

Pieces of wreckage and bodies were found spread over a large area.

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President Vladimir Putin "expresses deep condolences to all people who lost their relatives", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

There were 65 passengers and six members of the crew onboard the plane. Contact was lost four minutes later.

A Reuters report quoted by NDTV says that the debris of the aircraft has been found and that there are no survivors. Saratov Airlines has been controlled by entrepreneur Arkady Evstafiev since Aeroflot PJSC sold its stake in the carrier in 2011, according to Kommersant daily.

It crashed in the countryside a short distance outside Moscow, with one witness reportedly claiming that there was an "explosion" when the plane was still in the air. It was operating Saratov Flight 703.

The airline appealed against the ban and changed its policy before resuming global charter flights in 2016.

The carrier flies mainly on domestic Russian routes but also has destinations in Armenia and Georgia.