A Russian passenger jet crashed several minutes after takeoff from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Sunday, killing all 71 people on board, Russia's Air Transport Agency confirmed.
"Fragments of the An-148 and several bodies have been found near the village of Stepanovskoye," the agency said in a statement released by the state-run TASS news agency. A cockpit recorder and parts of the fuselage were retrieved from the crash site, Russia's Emergencies Ministry reported.
Authorities said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, including whether the tragedy was terror-related. Preliminary reports indicated the pilots did not report any technical problems or activate a mayday call, Russia’s Investigative Committee said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered establishment of a special commission to investigate the crash, and Russian Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said a criminal investigation had been launched.
Saratov Airlines Flight 703, with 65 passengers and a crew of six, was bound for Orsk when it departed Moscow at 2:21 p.m. local time, the ministry said. Radio contact was lost a few minutes after takeoff, and the plane disappeared from air traffic control radars.
Fire and rescue divisions, ambulance brigades and other emergency services were immediately dispatched to the crash site, authorities said. Photos from the scene showed emergency vehicles parked in deep snow.
Pieces of the plane were found in the Ramenskoye region less than 25 miles from the airport, the ministry said. Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov flew to the site.
Families of the passengers and crew were gathering at the airport in Orsk, about 1,100 miles east of Moscow. Most of the passengers were from the Orsk region, authorities said. Three children were among the passengers, along with three non-Russians of Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the Emergencies Ministry saidl.
Orsk Mayor Andrei Odintsov said the local governor had declared Monday a day of mourning throughout the region. President Vladimir Putin "expresses deep condolences to all people who lost their relatives," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Saratov Airlines is a subsidiary of Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline. The An-148 was built by Voronezh Aircraft in 2010, the company said in a statement released through TASS. The company promised its own probe.
"We were grieved to learn about the crash," the statement said.
The crash was the first major air disaster in Russia since December 2016, when a Defense Ministry-operated jet enroute to Syria from Sochi crashed into the Black Sea. All 92 people aboard were killed, including more than 60 "cultural paratroopers" —members of the Russian military's famed Alexandrov Ensemble dance and choir company.
In a statement, the White House said the United States "is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of those on board Saratov Airlines Flight 703. We send our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the people of Russia."