Russian Officials’ Plane Crashes
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) _ A Russian Defense Ministry plane with 75 people on board crashed into a Georgian mountain Wednesday while trying to land in bad weather, officials said.
The plane went down near the town of Batumi, the capital of southwest Georgia’s Adzharia region, said Nato Zazashvili, a spokeswoman for the Adzharian government.
The cause of the crash and information about the fate of those aboard were not immediately known.
The airplane veered off course on approach in ``difficult weather conditions,″ said Alexander Silagadze, head of the civil aviation agency Sakaeronavigatsiya.
The plane, an Il-18 transport with 64 passengers and a crew of 11, crashed about 14 miles east of the town, said Marina Ryklina, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry.
Although Russia and Georgia became independent countries when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russian still maintains troops in Georgia.
The plane was flying from Chkalovskoye, a town outside Moscow where a military airfield is located, to Batumi, also home to a Russian military base.
The Russian emergencies ministry was sending a plane carrying a search and rescue team.
Russia is in the process of removing its troops and equipment from two bases in Georgia, and is negotiating withdrawal from two more. Equipment from the bases is being shipped through Batumi.
The Il-18 is a Russian-made, four-engine turboprop. In 1997, an Il-18 owned by a private Russian carrier crashed on a charter flight while trying to take off in Johannesburg, South Africa. All five people survived and the reason for the crash was not determined.
The Il-18 model first flew in 1957, and production ceased in 1970. The plane was used as a passenger plane by the Soviet national airline Aeroflot and seats up to 100 passengers. Aeroflot still uses the plane for cargo flights.