One of two survivors of a Ukrainian military plane crash died in hospital as the death toll rose to 26 on Saturday after three more bodies were found.
President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at the scene of the tragedy near the eastern city of Kharkiv where an Antonov-26 transport plane carrying 20 young cadets and seven crew members crashed on Friday evening.
The plane caught fire on landing about two kilometers (over a mile) from Chuguiv military air base. Firefighters extinguished the blaze after an hour.
Twenty-two were confirmed dead and two people survived. On Saturday, three more bodies were found and one of the two survivors died in hospital.
“Ukraine has lost 26 worthy sons,” Zelensky said on Facebook, declaring Saturday a day of mourning.
“Twenty-five died on the spot,” he said, adding that another cadet had died in hospital from severe burns.
“It’s hard to find words to express the pain of this loss.”
Zelensky said the cause of the crash should be quickly established and called for an “objective” investigation.
Ukraine’s SBU security service said the plane was on a training flight but cadets from the Kharkiv National Air Force University were not involved in piloting it.
The security service, citing preliminary information, said the pilot reported an engine failure and seven minutes later the plane struck the ground.
Defense Minister Andriy Taran said “the plane probably took off with its wing” and then caught fire.
“Everything went as planned: the plane was on a training flight for the cadets,” he told the defense ministry.
He said the instructor was behind the wheel and the cadets took turns to sit next to the pilot.
Taran said the plane was manufactured in 1977 but was in good condition.
A number of foreign leaders, including Polish President Andrzej Duda, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior EU diplomat Josep Borrell have expressed their condolences.
“We extend our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the cadets, officers and crew killed and injured in the An-26 plane crash,” the US Embassy in Ukraine said on Facebook.