Thousands of rescuers were searching for bodies in the Black Sea as Russia marked a day of mourning on Monday, following the crash of a Syria-bound military plane carrying 92 people.
The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally-renowned "Red Army Choir" heading to entertain the Russian troops in Syria for the New Year, went down off the resort city of Sochi shortly after take-off Sunday.
The first 10 bodies recovered were flown to Moscow amid a national outpouring of grief. Investigators were yet to confirm the cause of the crash, but the country's Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov told a televised briefing on Monday that authorities do not believe the plane was taken out by a terrorist attack.
More than three crews labored through the night, racing to find the remaining bodies and debris, including the black boxes crucial to tracking the plane's final moments, before the currents carry them further away from shore.
Sokolov said some of the bodies could have already been carried off by the current to Abkhazia, the separatist region of Georgia.
"Eleven bodies and 154 (body) fragments were found over the first day," defense ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing.
"The search is complicated due to the large depth range and the sea bottom relief characteristics at the presumed crash area," he said.
Along with the first ten bodies, 86 body parts were flown back to the capital for DNA analysis, he said.
The passenger jet went down at around 5:25 am (2:25 GMT) on Sunday morning, minutes after taking off from Sochi's airport, where it had stopped to refuel after flying out from the Chkalovsky military aerodrome in the Moscow region.
Onboard were 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army's official musical group, also known as the Red Army Choir, and their conductor Valery Khalilov.
"The ensemble has been orphaned by a third," said state channel Rossiya.
The choir was set to perform for Russian troops deployed in Syria during the New Year's celebrations at the Hmeimim airbase, which has been used to launch airstrikes in support of Syria's Bashar Assad, a Moscow ally.
Other passengers included military officers, journalists and popular charity worker Yelizaveta Glinka, also known as Doctor Liza, who had been flying with a cargo of medical supplies for a hospital in the coastal city of Latakia.
Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin ordered a national day of mourning on Monday, with state television flashing black and white pictures of the victims across the screen while entertainment programs were cancelled.
People brought flowers to improvised memorials at the port in central Sochi and the city's airport, as well as to the Moscow headquarters of the Red Army Choir and the office of Fair Aid, the NGO that Glinka headed, which primarily worked with Moscow's homeless.
The Red Army Choir in Turkey
The Russian Red Army Choir which had also performed in Turkey on Jun. 13, 2015 in partnership with IEG Live and SA Organization offered a rich repertoire from Russian folk songs to opera arias as well as popular songs. The talented choir had also performed a few songs in Turkish, much to the surprise of the audience.
The world's largest military choir, the Russian Red Army Choir, had performed their universal repertoire for an Istanbul audience on Jun. 13, 2015 at the Zorlu Performing Arts Center, celebrating the 95th anniversary of Turkey's diplomatic relations with Russia.
Much to the surprise of the audience, the choir opened up the concert with the Turkish National Anthem and also performed Turkish megastar Tarkan's "Şıkıdım" and Barış Manço's "Genç Osman."
Back in 2013, the Russian-based Turkish-Russian Cultural Center had organized another program on March 8, to celebrate World Women's Day. Among the performers were the now deceased Red Army Choir, world renowned Italian opera and pop artist Alessandra Safina, Soviet Russia's folk singer Losif Kobzon and prominent musicians of Russia had performed.
The traditional Turkish folk song "Yaylalar Yaylalar" was also performed during that concert.
Earlier on Oct. 20, 2008, the Ottoman Military Band had shared the stage with the choir at Kremlin in Moscow and put on a "Friendship Concert." During the concert, the two ensembles had performed the anthem of the Ottoman Military Band.
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