A Russian border guard Il-76 plane crashed Sunday during a flight from Moscow to Russia's far eastern city of Peteropavlovsk-Kamchatsk, killing all 18 people on board, officials said.
The plane's pilot radioed to ground control that a fire had erupted on board while the plane was cruising at an altitude of 9,600 meters (31,700 feet), an emergency ministry official told NTV television.
Contact was lost moments later and the plane disappeared from the radar when it was 7,500 meters above the ground.
There were nine crew members and nine passengers on board the plane, which was also carrying a 36-tonne payload, officials said.
The Il-76 made a forced landing on the Kamchatka peninsula, but burst into flames on touching ground, Interfax reported citing a preliminary investigation into the crash.
Investigators discovered that the jet split into three parts after hitting the ground, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no survivors.
A workhorse of the Russian military, the transport plane was first introduced into service in 1973 and has established a good record despite a general collapse of the post-Soviet aviation industry.
It has a maximum payload of 47 tonnes and is used by the Russian military to transport troops, as well as tanks and trucks. Civilian freight companies frequently use the plane to transport heavy machinery.
Sunday's accident comes just nine days after 27 people died when a catastrophic mechanical failure downed a 40-year-old Il-18 plane in the central Russian region of Tver.
A Tu-154 operated by Sibir airline flying from Tel Aviv to Novossibirsk in western Siberia exploded in mid-air on October 4 before crashing into the Black Sea, killing all 78 passengers and crew.
(,a href="http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/">China Daily December 2, 2001)