Flight recorders of a military plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine have been found as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged a prompt and impartial investigation into the incident that killed 26 people.
“Yesterday, as a result of a terrible tragedy … Ukraine lost 26 of its worthy sons,” Zelenskyy posted on Facebook on Saturday, which he declared a day of mourning for the country.
“I insist that the causes of this plane crash be promptly clarified and that the investigation be objective and impartial,” he wrote.
Defence Minister Andriy Taran said the flight recorders containing the flight data had been found.
“Of course it’s a terrible tragedy; we’ll find out the causes. The final conclusions will be drawn after the flight recorders have been evaluated,” he said, according to a statement from his ministry.
The Antonov An-26 aircraft crashed during a training exercise on Friday. There were 27 people on board, 20 of them reported to be young recruits from an air force university.
The crash happened about 2km (1.2 miles) from a military airport near the eastern city of Kharkiv, where the university is located.
Ukrainian authorities said they were investigating four possible causes of the crash – a technical malfunction involving the aircraft, improper performance by the crew, improper performance by flight control and inadequate maintenance.
The state Security Service, a Ukrainian law enforcement agency, said the plane crashed after the left engine of the twin-engined plane failed.
“According to the preliminary information, the cadets did not directly control the aircraft – all flights were performed by the crew commander,” the security service said in a statement.
The aircraft, manufactured in 1977 and used for training flights, had previously been in normal use. “Everything went according to plan, the plane was performing a training flight for cadets,” Taran said.
The Ukrainian Air Force said that it was a “bitter and irreparable loss” and expressed its condolences to the families and loved ones.
The government said training flights on similar types of aircraft had been suspended.