MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian military plane carrying combat pilots crash-landed Monday while approaching an Arctic airport, injuring most of the 39 people on board, officials said.
The Defense Ministry said the plane, an Il-18 turboprop, crash-landed near the town of Tiksi in the Sakha-Yakutia region on the Laptev Sea. The plane carrying 32 passengers and a seven-member crew was flying from Kansk in eastern Siberia, around 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) southwest of Tiksi.
The plane broke up when it landed in the tundra, but didn't catch fire.
Rescue helicopters evacuated people from the crash site, and 32 were hospitalized in Tiksi, including 16 who were in a grave condition, the ministry said. The other seven had less serious injuries.
A specialized Il-76 aircraft equipped with life-support equipment has flown to Tiksi to bring the injured to the main military hospitals in Moscow for treatment, according to the ministry.
The plane's data recorders were recovered from the site, but the cause of the crash wasn't immediately known. Local officials in Yakutia said strong winds were the likely cause, while Russian media also mentioned pilot error or a technical malfunction among possible reasons.
The Il-18 is a four-engine passenger plane designed in the 1950s, and some are still in service with the Russian military for transport duties.