MOSCOW -- A pilot of the Russian air force's elite aerobatic squadron died Thursday when his fighter jet crashed near Moscow.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Su-27 fighter jet went down while returning from a training mission. It said, according to preliminary information, the crash had been caused by a technical malfunction, but wouldn't elaborate pending an official probe.
The Russian Knights aerobatic squadron said on its Facebook page that Maj. Sergei Yeremenko died in the crash.
Russian TV stations broadcast images of the gutted wreckage scattered around a forest and a plume of black smoke rising over the trees.
According to news reports, the plane crashed while returning to its base in Kubinka west of Moscow after a group demonstration flight marking the opening of a monument to airmen near Moscow. The Interfax news agency said the plane that crashed had recently undergone factory repairs. Emergency crews have already recovered the plane's flight recorder.
The Russian Knights are famous for their spectacular low passes and synchronous maneuvers. They perform widely at air shows in Russia and abroad.