Russian plane crashes near Moscow killing all 71 passengers on board

All 71 passengers aboard a Saratov Airlines plane flying from Moscow to Orsk have died following a crash, Russian state news agency Tass reports. The plane came down near the village of Argunovo, about 80km (50 miles) south-east of Moscow on Sunday, around midday local time.

Those on board included 65 passengers and six crew members, and emergency services told Russian news agency Interfax that there was "no chance" anyone could have survived.

"Debris has been found, there are no survivors," a source told Tass. Images that have emerged of the crash site show pieces of wreckage emitting smoke in a snow-covered field. An official reportedly said bodies were found nearby.

Flight-tracking site Flightradar24 reports that the Antonov-148 aircraft suddenly vanished from radars shortly after takeoff from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, and crashed minutes after that. It was en route to the city of Orsk in the Urals, near the southern Russian border with Kazakhstan. Trackers showed that the plane had reached an altitude of around 6,400 feet before disappearing from the radar.

Flightradar24 reported that the aircraft was seven-years-old and that it crashed only 5-6 minutes after takeoff. "Saratov Airlines flight #6W703 has crashed about 5-6 minutes after take off from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow," they tweeted. "During the last seconds before it crashed the aircraft was falling with up to 22,000 feet per minute. The aircraft involved was a 7 year old Antonov An-148."

The causes of the crash still remain unknown, but investigations are underway. The Russian Transport Ministry said it there are a number of possible causes, including pilot error or weather conditions.

"The snow is very dense ... the Moscow region has had some of its heaviest snowfall in decades," CNN reported from Moscow. "It's not clear at this stage whether weather was factor in this crash."

The wreckage of a Russian Post helicopter was reportedly also found at the site, according to Russian news site Gazeta.ru. While this is yet to be confirmed, it's possible the helicopter and the plane collided to cause the crash.

A criminal investigation has also been launched, according to officials from the Investigative Committee of Russia. President Vladimir Putin ordered the establishment of a "special commission in connection with the plane crash," official spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Tass.
"The President also expresses deep condolences to all those who lost relatives and friends in this disaster," he added.