Aeroflot plane crash in Russia kills 88
The Russian airliner reportedly caught fire in the air and lost control.
Moscow -- An Aeroflot Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed near Russia's Ural mountains on Sunday, killing all 88 people on board including 21 foreign nationals.
The Russian airliner reportedly caught fire in the air and lost control as it readied to land in the city of Perm early Sunday morning.
The wreckage burned just meters from a residential community and debris blocked a section of Russia's Trans-Siberian railway.
Television showed firefighters and investigators sifting through the wreckage which was spread over about four square kilometers, officials said.
Investigators have recovered the aircraft's two black box recorders, which they hope will clarify the cause of the accident.
Aeroflot confirmed there were no survivors. Among the victims were citizens of Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Germany, the United States, France, Switzerland, Latvia, Turkey and Italy. Seven children died in the crash.
Among the dead was General Gennady Troshev, a government advisor and a key general in Russia's war in Chechnya, the country's transportation ministry was cited as saying by the news agency Interfax.
Irina Andrianova, spokeswoman for the Civil Defense Ministry, said the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control at around 1,800 meters off the ground. The plane exploded into flames upon hitting the ground at 5:00 am (2300 GMT), she added.
A woman who witnessed the plane go down over her house told Vesti24 television the plane burst into flames in the air.
"It was burning in the sky," she said. "It looked like a falling comet."
Airline spokesman Lev Koshlyakov said the 16-year-old plane had been declared fit to fly after a "complete technical inspection" this year.
The Boeing 737-500, one of the most sold models in the world, was acquired by Aeroflot from China's Xiamen Airlines. The airplane was leased by Aeroflot until 2013 from Irish firm Pinewatch Limited.
President Dmitry Medvedev was being briefed on the crash and Transport Minister Igor Levitin was to fly to the site of the disaster, news agencies said.
Aeroflot has worked hard to reform its previous negative image, and has fought ongoing concerns over its ageing fleet and airline safety regulations.
The company immediately pledged to pay compensation of up to two million rubles ($80,000 dollars/55,000 euros) for each victim and set up a crisis centre for relatives of victims at Moscow's Sheremetyevo-1 airport and in Perm.
Last month, 65 people were killed when a Boeing plane went down in the Russia's former Soviet neighbor Kyrgyzstan. An Aeroflot flight last crashed in 1994 over Siberia, killing 70 people.