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Parts of Russian crash jet are recovered by divers in Black Sea

By AP Reporters

Divers have recovered fragments of the Russian passenger jet that crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 92 people on board, including the famous 'Red Army Choir'.

Russia's emergency situations ministry said that divers found several fragments of the plane one mile from the shore and 25 metres (82 feet) under the sea.

It said some of the debris has been recovered, and the divers were going back into the water to search for more.

All 92 people on board the Russian military's Tu-154 plane are believed to have died when the jet crashed two minutes after taking off from the southern city of Sochi en route to Syria.

More than 3,500 rescue workers are involved in the operation to find the remains of those on board and plane debris.

As Russia held a day of mourning for the victims, pilot error or a technical fault - not terrorism - was being cited as the most likely cause of the crash.

The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia's world-famous military choir, nine Russian journalists and a Russian doctor known for her charity work in war zones.

The search party has not yet found the plane's black boxes, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said earlier that the plane's flight recorders did not have radio beacons, so locating them on the seabed was going to be challenging.

Speaking on television, Mr Sokolov said terrorism was not among the main theories for the crash cause, and that authorities were looking into a possible technical fault or a pilot error.

The intelligence agency FSB echoed his comments later, saying it "has not found any signs or facts pointing to a possible terror attack or sabotage on board".

The intelligence agency is now focusing the probe on possibilities such as a pilot error, low quality of fuel, external objects getting in the engine or an unspecified technical fault.

The plane began its flight from Moscow's military airport of Chkalovsky. The FSB insisted the plane was under its surveillance and that only two people, both FSB officers, got on board when the jet landed in Sochi for refuelling. The plane did not carry any military or dual-use cargo, the FSB said.

The plane was taking the Defence Ministry's choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble - also known as the Red Army Choir - to perform at a New Year's concert at Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.

Despite the Syrian connection, Mr Sokolov said the government saw no need to heighten security measures at Russian airports.

Emergency crews found fragments of the plane about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from the shore on Sunday, but a deputy defence minister said experts estimated the Tu-154 crash site at six kilometres (3.7 miles) from the shore.

By yesterday morning, rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies, as well as body fragments. All were flown to Moscow, where the remains will be identified.

Local governor Veniamin Kondratyev told Russian state television that most of the bodies could be still inside the fuselage.

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