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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

All 71 passengers dead in Russian plane crash 

The plane disappeared from radar screens soon after leaving Moscow's Domodedovo airport

A Russian plane crashed after taking off from Moscow on Sunday killing all 71 people on board, including 65 passengers and six crew members.

Two bodies have been found, according to an official at the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.

Russia's Interfax news agency said the Saratov Airlines AN-148 jet crashed near the village of Argunovo in the Moscow region. Emergency services said in a statement that more than 150 rescue workers were deployed to the site.

There were no survivors, an emergency services source told the Tass news agency.

The plane had disappeared from radar screens soon after leaving Moscow's Domodedovo airport on a flight to the city of Orsk.

Witnesses reported seeing the passenger plane on fire as it plummeted to the ground, Interfax said. Wreckage of the plane was spread over a wide area around the crash site.

The Russian-made aircraft was seven years old and had been purchased by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane had been flying since 2010, with a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.

Local media website Ural56.ru in the Orenburg region showed footage of distressed relatives at Orsk airport, where the plane was due to land. Orsk is the second biggest city in the Orenburg region, near Russia's border with Kazakhstan.

Andrei Odintsov, the mayor of the city of Orsk, told Russian state television that six psychologists and four ambulances with medics are working with the relatives in the small airport.

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Russian media reported that the emergency services were unable to reach the crash site by road and that rescue workers walked to the scene on foot.

The Russian transport minister was on his way to the crash site, agencies reported. The transport ministry said several causes for the crash are being considered, including weather conditions and human error.

The governor of the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, told Russian media that "more than 60 people" on board the plane were from the region.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into Saratov Airlines, while President Vladimir Putin offered "his profound condolences to those who lost their relatives in the crash," his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Mr Putin has postponed a planned trip to Sochi to meet with Mahmoud Abbas to closely monitor the investigation and will meet the Palestinian leader in Moscow instead.

Plane crashes are common in Russia, where airlines often operate ageing aircraft in testing flying conditions.

A light aircraft crashed in November in Russia's far east, killing six people on board.

In December 2016 a military plane carrying Russia's famed Red Army Choir crashed after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, killing all 92 people on board.

The choir had been due to give a concert to Russian troops operating in Syria.

Pilot error was blamed for the crash.

In March 2016, all 62 passengers died when a FlyDubai jet crashed in bad weather during an aborted landing at Rostov-on-Don airport.

With reporting from Agence France-Presse