The first batch of the bodies of the people killed in a Russian plane crash in Egypt has arrived in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
A Russian government plane, carrying some 144 bodies, landed at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport early on Monday.
The bodies were later transferred to a morgue in the city for identification.
A second flight carrying more bodies is scheduled to land in St. Petersburg on Monday evening.
The deadly crash took place on Saturday, when an Airbus A-321, operated by the Kogalymavia airline went down over the northern Sinai Peninsula while en route from the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. It was carrying 214 Russian and three Ukrainian passengers, along with seven crew members.
The black boxes of the aircraft have already been found and their contents are being analyzed to determine the cause of the mishap.
Russians observed a day of mourning across the country on Sunday amid a massive outpouring of grief.
Also on Sunday, rescuers and the search teams combed an area of 16 square kilometers (over 6 square miles) to find more bodies and pieces of the plane. Some 163 bodies were recovered on Sunday, according to the Egyptian government.
Head of Russia’s federal aviation agency Alexander Neradko told reporters on Sunday that the large area over which plane body fragments were scattered shows that the aircraft had broken up in the air before going down.
Meanwhile, several International airlines have said they will avoid flying over Sinai, amid speculation that the plane was downed by militants active in the area.
Air France and Lufthansa said Sunday they were stopping overflights as a precaution while the cause of the crash was still under investigation.
Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest carrier, also said it had stopped flying its airplanes over the region.
An affiliate of Daesh in Egypt has claimed to have downed the plane, but Russian and Egyptians officials have dismissed this claim.
Military experts say militants in Sinai do not have weapons capable of hitting an aircraft at 30,000 feet (9,000 meters), the altitude of the airliner when it lost contact with air traffic control.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material
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