- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2016

Military and government officials in Moscow are considering whether Sunday’s crash of a military airliner en route to Russia’s main military hub in Syria was an act of terrorism.

The Tupolev Tu-154 transporting 92 entertainers, including members of the famed Red Army Choir, crashed into the Black Sea after a refueling stop in the southern Russian town of Sochi, according to recent reports.

The group was heading to the Russian air base in Latakia for a Christmas performance for troops stationed there. Initial inquiries into the details of the crash showed there were no survivors, according to Defense Ministry officials.

A number of Russian politicians and government officials were wary to connect the crash to a terrorist attack. But members of Russia’s special Investigative Committee, which is leading the main investigation into the incident has refused to rule out terrorism as the cause.

“Of course, the entire spectrum and almost any possible causes … are being probed, but it is premature now to speak about this” as a terrorist act, Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told reporters in Sochi, the Black Sea resort where the plane had made a refueling stop, The Washington Post reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Dec. 26 as a national day of mourning for the 96 people killed in the crash, and vowed to conduct a complete and through investigation into the incident, The Post reported.

The accident comes roughly a week after Ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated during an event in Ankara by an off-duty Turkish police officer, who reportedly shouted insults over Russia’s involvement in the bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The city, which had been a stronghold for rebel forces battling to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was recaptured by regime forces due in no small part to heavy Russian air support.

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