CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered Russian emergency officials to fly immediately to the wreckage of a Russian plane that crashed earlier in the day in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Russia’s Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov will coordinate the search and rescue operation in Egypt, the ministry said Saturday.
Authorities say the plane crashed 23 minutes into its flight while carrying 217 passengers and 7 crew members from the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular tourist resort for Russians, back to St. Petersburg. The time lapse between takeoff and losing contact with the aircraft means that the plane was possibly flying at a cruising altitude of some 30,000 feet before it crashed.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top investigative body, has opened an investigation into the crash for possible violations of flight safety procedures. Committee spokesman Sergei Markin made the announcement in a statement Saturday.
An Egyptian aviation official says the pilot of Metrojet Flight 7K9268 had reported technical difficulties and planned an emergency landing at the nearest airport before losing contact with Egyptian air traffic controllers and crashing. Ayman al-Muqadem, a member of the Aviation Incidents Committee, said the pilot had reported his intention to attempt to land at the nearest airport.
A statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said military search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the passenger jet in the Hassana area south of the city of Al-Arish, an area in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces are fighting a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.
Militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter-jets.
Egypt has also opened an investigation into the causes of the crash.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report