By Jonathan Davies

The chief executive of French oil company Total, Christophe de Margerie, has died in a plane crash in Moscow.

Mr De Margerie's private jet collided with a snow plough as it took off, before bursting into flames and crashing.

All four people on board were killed.

Russian investigators said that the driver of the snow plough was drunk and had found his way onto the runway. It is understood that the driver of the snow plough was not injured.

Mr de Margerie, 63, had spent his entire career with Total before being appointed as chief executive in 2007. He was nicknamed "big moustache".

"France is losing an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement.

"France is losing a great industry captain and a patriot."

Under Mr de Margerie, Total had become a big player in Russia. It is one of the largest foreign investors in Russia and is planning to double output from the country in 2020.

He had become a strong defender of Russia and had called for the West to maintain ties with the country.

A Kremlin spokesperson said: "The President highly appreciated de Mergerie's business skills, his continued commitment to the development of not only bilateral Russian-French relations, but also on multi-faceted levels."

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