VIDEO: Thousands of Serbs sing to mourn members of Alexandrov Ensemble killed in Tu-154 crash

VIDEO: Thousands of Serbs sing to mourn members of Alexandrov Ensemble killed in Tu-154 crash
A whole basketball arena in Serbia joined to sing a folk song in memory of the members of the legendary Alexandrov Ensemble who were on board the ill-fated Tu-154 jet that crashed off the coast of the Black Sea.

The moving, yet heartfelt, moment was caught on camera earlier this week when Crvena Zvesda, a Serbian basketball club, was playing Russia’s CSKA in the 2016 Euroleague playoffs.

As the players were warming up, over 20,000 Serbian fans rose to sing under a banner reading: “May heaven hear the song of this 20,000-strong choir!” The choice of the song was symbolic – ‘Tamo daleko’, or ‘There, Far Away’, is widely known among the Serbs for its nostalgic, sorrowful melody.

The song, which was composed in 1916, glorifies Serbian warriors who took up arms in defense of their homeland and mourns those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield.

“Nobody among the Russians knew of our performance,” Davor Ristovic, Crvena Zvezda’s director, told RT. “Everyone was amazed when 20,000 people applauded at the end of the game. This was a human, emotional and patriotic act of the Serbs,” he added.

A Tu-154 airliner owned by Russia’s Defense Ministry plummeted into the Black Sea on December 25, just minutes after taking off from Sochi airport. The crash claimed the lives of 92 people on board. Among them were 64 members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble, including their director and conductor, General Valery Khalilov.

The tragedy rocked both Russian and international fans.

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The group was established in 1928 and has since toured the world performing Russian folk and patriotic songs, as well as World War II music. The widely popular chorus is often referred to as “Russia’s singing weapon.”

A message of support and condolence also came from across the Atlantic on Friday, when members of the Schiller Institute Community Chorus performed the Russian national anthem outside the Russian Consulate in New York to honor the Tu-154 crash victims.

“This accident is all the more a cause for sadness, as the music and patriotic spirit characteristic of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble would have brought a message of hope to the people of Syria… victimized by more than five years of the criminal policies of regime change,” the group said a statement on their YouTube channel.

“The Alexandrov Ensemble has been an expression of the highest moral values of Russia and, like classical choral singing in general, speaks to the soul and the creative potential of the audience,” it added.