The Tu-134 plane belonging to the Rus-Air airlines was flying from Moscow to the Karelian republic's capital Petrozavodsk when it crash landed on a highway, one kilometre from the airport, emergencies situation ministry spokesperson Irina Andrianaova said.
"There were 52 people on board including nine crew. Forty four people were killed and eight survived, including an air-hostess," Andrianova told Rossiya 24 TV.
Sergei Ryzhov, Chief Designer of the light water VVER nuclear reactors, built by Russia in foreign countries including at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu has been killed in the crash along with the top leadership of the Russian nuclear industry.
"In Petrozavodsk crash practically whole leadership of OKB Gidropress (Hydropress) united designing bureau was killed including its director and general designer Sergei Ryzhov, deputy director and chief designer Gennady Banyuk, and head designer and chief of branch Nikolai Trunov," Gidropress spokesman Sergei Sorokin said saying this was a great blow and loss for the Russian nuclear industry.
Eight foreigners were among the 44 people killed in the plane crash in Petrozavodsk. Eight people, including a nine-year-old boy and his teenage sister were among the eight people who survived the crash.
According to Vesti FM radio the authorities have closed Petrozavodsk airport for the passenger traffic due to numerous shortcomings in its functioning.
"It was a former military airfield without proper infrastructure for receiving in adverse weather," an official of the Karelia administration was quoted as saying by the radio.
Slightly less than an hour and a half later it crashed on the Petrozavodsk-Suojarvi highway breaking into parts and bursting into flames.
According to an eyewitness a car was squeezed under the belly of the crash landing airliner and many motorists rushed to help the passengers of the jet.
"We had rescued some. I was going towards a stocky man with stretched hands calling for help, but then it burst into flames, it was hell and I had to retreat.
I cannot forget that man's eyes praying for help," a weeping motorist told Rossiya 24 TV before completely breaking down. Six of the eight survivors will be flown to Moscow for further hospital treatment.
An Emergencies Ministry Ilyushin Il-76 transport jet landed arrived in Petrozavodsk with a group of doctors and psychologists. The plane has three mobile units for transporting seriously ill patients, RIA Novosti reported.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Igor Levitin has reached Petrozavodsk on the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev to personally supervise the probe.