Russian plane crashes near Moscow, killing 71 people - agencies

The Antonov-148 aircraft disappeared from the radar shortly after takeoff from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and crashed soon afterward, Tass reported.

The domestic plane was being operated by Saratov airlines, and had 65 passengers on board - including three children - along with six crew members.

Russia's Investigative Committee has sent forensic teams to the crash site and the nation's Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov is also said to be on his way to the area.

The plane was headed to the Russian city of Orsk, near the border with Kazakhstan.

Radio contact with the Saratov Airlines plane was lost several minutes after the take-off, the Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) said.

"We have all kinds of scenarios" for what may have caused the crash, Russian Transportation Ministry official Zhanna Terekhova told Rossiya-24.

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Witnesses reported hearing a huge explosion and seeing an airplane in flames falling towards the ground, while Russian news agencies said wreckage has been spotted in a field near Moscow, the Washington Post reported.

Local media website Ural56.ru in the Orenburg region showed footage of distressed relatives at Orsk airport, where the plane was due to land.

Shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly in recent years.

Rescuers have arrived at the site and found two bodies from the crashed plane, Russia's EMERCOM said.

The Russian-made AN-148 was seven-years-old and was bought by the airline one year ago.

The Russian government dispatched 150 people and 20 pieces of equipment, including a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, to the crash site, the Ministry of Emergency Situations states.

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