PERM, Russia, (AFP) - An Aeroflot Boeing-737 jet crashed Sunday on the outskirts of Perm in Russia's Ural mountains killing all 88 passengers and crew on board. At least 20 foreigners and seven children were on the plane which burst into flames as it prepared to land at the end of a two-hour flight east from Moscow. The wreckage cut off a stretch of the Trans-Siberian railway. "It was burning while still in the sky and it looked like a falling comet," one female witness told Russia's Vesti-24 television. Aeroflot said controllers lost radio contact with the plane around 5:20 am (2320 GMT Saturday). Moments later it plunged to Earth, narrowly missing a densely-populated residential area on the outskirts of Perm. The airline confirmed there were no survivors and said the dead included nine people from Azerbaijan, five from Ukraine and one each from France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Switzerland, and Turkey. One passenger was said to be American but US officials were checking that information. Six of the dead were crew. Among the victims was General Gennady Troshev, a former top commander of Russia's war in Chechnya and advisor to ex-president Vladimir Putin, Interfax news agency reported, citing Russia's transport ministry. Aeroflot chief executive Valery Okulov held a Press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after meeting relatives of some of the victims. He refused to be drawn into whether the crash could have been the work of terrorists, saying that was a matter for the investigating commission. An official statement from the carrier held few clues as to the cause of the crash. "As the plane was coming in for landing, it lost communication at the height of 1,100 metres and air controllers lost its blip," it said. "The airplane was found within Perm's city limits completely destroyed and on fire." One witness described seeing the plane pass over his house before watching in horror as it exploded and came hurtling to the ground. "The plane was flying over our building, falling, and it hit the ground about 200 metres away and broke up," a local resident, who only gave his name as Maxim, told AFP. "It blew up in the air, the pieces fell on the ground. The main part containing the passengers fell in a dacha (country house) area with gardens. It didn't hit the main residential area." Vesti-24 showed smouldering hot metal strewn across a wooded area and investigators combing through the dark with flashlights. Later pictures showed clothes and other possessions scattered far and wide. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, though investigator Vladimir Markin was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying there had been some kind of technical failure. Both black box flight recorders were found, reports said. Aeroflot spokesman Lev Koshlyakov told journalists the plane had been given "a full technical inspection" early this year and was judged to be in a "proper condition." The airline set up a crisis centre at Moscow's Sheremetyevo and in Perm for relatives of the victims and pledged compensation of up to two million rubles (some 80,000 dollars or 55,000 euros) for each person lost. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences to the grieving families and Russia's Transport Minister Igor Levitin was dispatched to Perm to personally head the probe into what happened. Police said that plane wreckage on the tracks had forced the closure of a stretch of the Trans-Siberian railway between Perm and Yekaterinburg. The plane had been leased in July by Aeroflot from a Dublin-based company Pinewatch Limited until March 2013, the airline said. It was not clear how old it was.