The Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737 crashed onto the runway at Kazan airport, about 500 miles east of Moscow, falling nearly vertically while making an attempt to land in poor weather.
Authorities said the jet exploded upon impact, about 7:20 p.m. local time, and left bodies and debris strewn across the runway. The plane's official manifest listed 44 passengers and six crew.
Officials were to begin collecting DNA from relatives to help identify the victims, and the plane's two "black boxes" have been recovered. Vladimir Markin, an investigative committee official, said they would examine whether poor fuel quality or weather conditions were contributing factors.
Russian officials said the plane had been in service since 1990 and the crew had cited technical difficulties for the struggle to land.
Believed to be among the dead were Irek Minnikhanov, son of the president of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, and Aleksander Antonov, the head of Tatarstan's Federal Security Service.