Mourners lay flowers at Pulkovo International Airport outside St. Petersburg on November 1, 2015. (AFP Photo)
Saint Petersburg, Russia:
A plane carrying the remains of scores of people killed when a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt landed in Saint-Petersburg early on Monday, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
The plane, the first to bring back the bodies of those who died when Russian airline Kogalymavia's flight 9268 crashed in Sinai Peninsula, arrived in the Pulkovo airport of the country's second-largest city at around 0300GMT.
Russian officials confirmed that 144 bodies were on board of the plane. Egypt had earlier said that it would transport the remains of 162 people.
The remains were to be taken in a motorcade to a crematorium in Saint Petersburg for identification, which will begin later on Monday, according to Russia's emergency ministry, which organised the flight.
Family members have been providing DNA samples at a crisis centre set up close to the airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people are bringing flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children as young as 10 months old.
Most of those who died were vacationers from Saint-Petersburg and the surrounding region who were due to come back home at midday Saturday from the popular Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Reasons for the crash are still unknown and an international group of investigators were working with Egyptian authorities.
Russia's top aviation officials have said that the plane broke apart in mid-air, and the head of the Russian air transport agency Alexander Neradko on Sunday said it appeared the aircraft disintegrated at high altitude.
"All signs prove that the structure of the plane disintegrated in the air at a high altitude," he told Russian state television on Sunday evening.
Interstate Aviation Committee head Viktor Sorochenko, who has been working in Egypt, said that "a first look showed that so far we cannot rule out any theory".