At least 44 people died on Wednesday afternoon when a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice-hockey team crashed during take-off near Yaroslavl, some 250 km from Moscow, emergencies officials said, according to RIA Novosti.
Two people survived the crash, investigators said.
Eight members of the crew were among the dead.
The Yak-42 plane was carrying the team to Minsk, the Belarusian capital, for the start of the new Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The side is coached by Canadian Brad McCrimmon, a former Detroit Red Wings assistant.
The plane crashed at 4:00 p.m. Moscow time (noon GMT).
The plane fell to earth straight after take-off and burst into flames.
"Passenger body parts were found in the Volga River, where part of the fuselage fell," a police source said.
Lokomotiv has a number of former NHL stars on the books, including former Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks centre Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek, also a centre formerly with the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes, and Belarusian defenseman Ruslan Salei, formerly of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who was due to take part in a political forum in Yaroslavl on Thursday, has expressed his condolences to the families of the victims. His press-secretary said Medvedev would visit the site of the crash.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, founded in 1949 as the team of the Railways Ministry, is one of Russia’s leading hockey teams and came runner up in the nascent Kontinental Hockey League in 2008 and 2009. In 1997 it took the Russian Superleague title and won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003. It was one of the favorites for this year’s Kontinental Hockey League.