Syrian-bound Russian defense ministry plane carrying 92 people including its renowned military band crashes into the Black Sea moments after taking off from Sochi

A Russian military plane with 92 people on board has crashed into the Black Sea, Russia’s defence ministry says.

Russian authorities said 92 people were aboard a military aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport on the Black Sea coast early Sunday.

At least 60 were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, better known internationally as the Red Army Choir, and were being flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria to entertain troops in the run-up to the New Year.

An unnamed ministry source told Russian news agencies that those on board had almost no chance of surviving and that no life-rafts had been found. Interfax cited another unnamed source as saying the plane had not sent an SOS signal.

The Russian defence ministry added on Sunday that rescuers had said there was no sign of any survivors of the crash. Defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said “no survivors are seen” at the crash site, less than a mile from the shore.

Twelve bodies have been recovered off the coast of the resort city of Sochi, as a frantic search operation continued to find the missing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation after a Russian military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of Red Army choristers, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria.

Russian agencies said all possible reasons for the crash were being examined, but investigators believed terrorism was unlikely.

The Tu-154 is a Soviet-designed, three-engine passenger aircraft. The Russian Defense Ministry said the plane that crashed in the Black Sea was manufactured in 1983 and underwent scheduled maintenance this fall, the news agency Interfax reported.