The plane owned by the Moskovia air carrier was en route from Chelyabinsk to Perm when it crashed 30 km north of Chelyabinsk at 6:30 pm Moscow time. According to the spokesman, an air traffic controller received a message from the crew shortly after takeoff from Chelyabinsk airport, saying smoke was entering the pilot's cabin and that the crew had decided to return to the airport for an emergency landing. The plane then disappeared from the radar screens.
Vyacheslav Latunkin, a spokesman for the local department of the Ministry, said the plane most likely hit an electric power line during the emergency landing. The plane's black box has been found, and will soon be decoded.
However, Alexander Neradko, the head of the Russian Federal Air Navigation Service, said the crash could have been caused by a short circuit. ''It is still hard to identify the cause. But it is most likely that a short circuit occurred on board the plane, which was followed by a fire,'' he told RIA Novosti news agency.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed his condolences to the families of those killed. He also ordered the Transportation Minister Igor Levitin to set up a commission to investigate the tragedy.
''The President expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and has ordered Igor Levitin to provide all possible help to the relatives of the deceased," the Kremlin press service reported.