A former Hillel programme director in Russia was one of 224 passengers to have died on the plane bound for St. Petersburg that crashed over Egypt this weekend, killing all onboard.

Anna Tishinskaya, 27, was this week described as “part of the Hillel family,” after she died on her way back from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. 

Anna Tishinskaya (Sourse: Screen capture/Hillel Russia website)

Anna Tishinskaya (Sourse: Screen capture/Hillel Russia website)

“You were incredibly talented, swift, fearless, sincere, kind and bright,” the organisation said in a statement. “You were a truly extraordinary person.”

Israeli leaders expressed their sympathy and offered help. “I offer condolences to the government of Russia, to President Putin, to the Russian people and to the families of the victims,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. 

“This was a very serious disaster. We share in their grief. We are, of course, in continuous contact with the governments of Russia and of Egypt regarding the circumstances of the incident.” 

The plane lost radar contact 23 minutes after taking off, and is believed to have exploded in mid-air over the Sinai Peninsula, where armed Islamist groups operate. 

While both Russian and Egyptian authorities have denied that the plane was shot down, one group linked to Islamic State claimed responsibility, saying it targeted the Kogalymavia plane because of Russia’s recent military involvement in Syria.

A militant group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt, Sinai Province, said in a statement it was behind the attack, which it said was “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land”.

However, security analysts say this is unlikely, because Islamic State is not believed to have the sophisticated weaponry required to target a plane at 30,000ft. Russia’s Transport Minister said the claim “cannot be considered accurate”.

As the first bodies began arriving back in Russia this week, investigators worked to retrieve flight information from the two black boxes recovered at the site. 

Meanwhile, a day of mourning was held in Russia on Sunday, and in Ukraine, which is at war with Russian-backed rebels, people left piles of flowers outside the Russian embassy in the capital Kiev. One card read: “Grief has no nationality.”