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Russian Plane Wreckage Found in Black Sea; Arab and Jewish Youth and Music. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired December 25, 2016 - 02:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A Russian military plane has crashed in the Black Sea, carrying members of the military and entertainers to an airbase in Syria. We'll have the latest developments.

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump announces he will dissolve his charitable foundation and a senior staffer decides he won't be a part of the administration after all.

And a very Merry Christmas to you and we are keeping an eye on our live Santa tracker and, of course, the pope as well, who will be delivering his Christmas message in a few hours.

Thank you for joining us. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta.


ALLEN: A developing story we're following: Russian state media report debris from a missing military airplane has been found in the Black Sea. Russia's defense ministry tells CNN a Tupolev 2-154 plane crashed shortly after takeoff; 83 passengers and eight crew were reportedly aboard.

For the latest CNN's Ian Lee joins us now from London. He's following this story for us.

Ian, hello. What a tragedy.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Natalie. And we're just getting a bunch of this information in right now. You do have over 90 passengers on it. And you have the Russian army choir, which is a world-renowned choir. They were heading to Latakia so that they could perform for New Year's, we're hearing, for the soldiers there in Syria.

This plane crashing, they say about a mile south of Sochi. They've been able to find some debris as deep as 50 to 70 meters. We haven't heard any word on survivors.

But right now still early in the search and rescue operation we're hearing that the southern military district of Krasnodar, they have utilized all their assets to help and look for any sort of survivor in this crash.

ALLEN: All right, Ian Lee for us in London. Thanks so much.

Let's bring in Matthew Chance now. He is on the phone from Moscow. He has been on this type of plane before as well.

Matthew, what are you hearing and talk more about the entertainers, a famous troupe that were on this plane.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're called the Red Army Choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, in fact, and it's the official choir of the Russian armed forces. They perform all around the country and actually they perform internationally as well.

And they were on their way, we understand, to Syria to stage a New Year's concert for the Russian forces that are in Latakia, where there's a big Russian airbase from which Russia has been carrying out airstrikes in support of its Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, when the plane went down.

It's pretty shocking actually because this is the kind of plane that, as you mentioned, my crew and I have been on several times and other people from CNN as well. It's a -- the Tupolev 154 is an old passenger plane which is basically out of service in civilian use, in civilian companies.

But the Russian defense ministry and others around the world still use them. They're extremely robust. They were the workhorse of the Soviet Union in terms of passenger aircraft.

And the one or two planes I've been on in recent years with the defense ministry have been old planes from the 1970s or '80s but they've been refitted inside and so they look quite nice inside. And they're for VIP transport.

These are what they shuttle ordinary troops around with. And you can see from the passenger list -- well, we haven't got the passengers. But the kind of people on board, that that's exactly what this was.

The orchestra, of course, the choir rather; there were journalists on board as well, who had undoubtedly been called by the defense ministry to come on board that plane and to report on the concert that was going to be given by the Red Army Choir.

That's what normally happened. They give you a call. They say, look, we're leaving tomorrow morning; come to the airport in Moscow, we'll get you on the plane. And you go off to Syria with them. It's happened numerous times and it could easily have been -- I don't know what journalists were involved in this trip.

But the defense ministry decide themselves which organizations to call. They call them and then you arrive the next day at the airport and then you go off to Syria with them. And so we'll wait to see which news organizations -- [02:05:00]

CHANCE: -- were called on this occasion. I expect it's probably Russian news organizations for an event like this. But, you know, we'll do some research on that.

ALLEN: Matthew, is there any more information about how long this airplane flew before it disappeared or if there was any sign of weather or any distress calls?

CHANCE: Well, I understand -- I mean, the details are a bit sketchy yet but I understand the plane took off as usual from Moscow. There's a military airport outside of Moscow, where these planes operate from.

It flew to Sochi, first of all, which is in Southern Russia. It's on the coast of the Black Sea. And that's about a two-hour flight. And so apparently it stopped there to refuel. It may have picked up some extra passengers or dropped some people off as well.

And then, apparently, it disappeared from radar about 20 minutes after taking off from Sochi. So it had really just taken off and it apparently was only just over the Black Sea, where fragments of the aircraft have now been located, according to Russian media, quoting the Russian defense ministry.

The weather was fine, apparently. There's no indication that there was a weather reason for this. And, of course, these planes are fully equipped to fly in bad weather. But, you know, we'll see what clarity comes to us in the minutes and in the hours ahead.

ALLEN: All right. We're sure they're working to search that area right now. Thank you, Matthew Chance for us in Moscow.


ALLEN: Israel says it is now reevaluating its relationship with the United Nations after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is canceling millions of dollars in contributions to U.N. organizations. U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump's team says it has, quote, "all hands on deck" working to kill the resolution.

Well, all too often we have to report on division among Israelis and Palestinians, including the recent news there about the Security Council vote condemning the settlements.

But now we're going to show you how some Arab and Jewish youth are coming together to make music. CNN's Oren Liebermann reports on a symphony of peace.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This orchestra creates meaning through music, speaking to each other and to the audience without words. This is the symphony of peace.

ANDRES SCHIFF (PH), MUSICIAN AND CONDUCTOR: Music cannot solve all the --


SCHIFF (PH): -- problems but it does have the very special healing power. I believe in that.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The Galilee Orchestra is the culmination of years of work from Polyphony, an organization that brings together Arab and Jewish children through the power of music; 10,000 children a year take part in Polyphony's programs.

Maya Seresh (ph) says she has learned much more than flute.

MAYA SERESH (PH), FLAUTIST: You have to really be pure in order to really produce good music. And once you do that, then you're you. If you can do music together, then you can do everything together.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): World-renowned pianist and conductor Andres Schiff (ph) came to support Polyphony. He even gave some of the students a master class. Schiff (ph) is an outspoken critic of intolerance and xenophobia.

SCHIFF (PH): And this is all about love versus hate. But love versus ignorance. I think ignorance is the greatest enemy of mankind.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Conductor and Polyphony musical leader Saleem Ashkar (ph) believes in the power of music. He lives in Berlin, site of the Christmas market attack that killed a dozen people and left many others wounded. That attack, he says, makes music more important.

SALEEM ASHKAR (PH), POLYPHONY: In times of crisis, beauty doesn't lose meaning but gains meaning because that's the reason to live. That's the reason to live and fight for life, is beauty and meaning.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In music, these young men and women build bridges that span across Jewish and Arab cultures. Perhaps then it is music that can succeed where words have failed -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Nazareth.


ALLEN: Very nice.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next.