Jean-Claude Juncker offers EU condolences to Vladimir Putin


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday offered condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin over a plane crash which presumably killed 92 people on board.

“It is with deep sadness that I have learnt of the loss of so many people in today’s airplane crash over the Black Sea,” Juncker said in a statement.

“On this holy day, my thoughts are with the victims, their families and loved ones,” he stated, “in my personal name and in that of the European Commission, I would like to express to you — and through you to the entire nation — my heartfelt condolences.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said a military Tu-154 aircraft crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday, presumably killing all 92 people aboard.

Among them were 64 members from the Alexandrov Ensemble, the renowned choir of the Russian Armed Forces and its head Valery Halilov, as well as nine Russian journalists.

The ill-fated plane, en route to Russia’s Hmeimim air base in the Syrian port city of Latakia, vanished from the radar screens shortly after takeoff from an airfield in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi at 5:40 a.m. Moscow Time (0240 GMT).

Several bodies of the victims have been recovered at the crash site. Fragments of the aircraft have been discovered in 1.5 km from the Black Sea shore of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters.

The federal Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case over the crash. Based on preliminary information, the tragedy was caused by technical malfunction or pilot error, a law enforcement source was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

However, the Defense Ministry said the Tu-154 aircraft was flown by an experienced first-class pilot.

The Interfax news agency quoted an emergency services source as saying that the possibility of a terror attack has been virtually ruled out.

The Russian Government has been instructed to set up a commission to be headed by the Transport Minister. A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the plane crash and every effort made to provide support to the families of the victims.

Tomorrow will be a national day of mourning.