Sat, 12 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

Chopper crash kills 15 Russian troops

RUSSIA: A helicopter crash in Chechnya killed 15 servicemen, officials said on Friday, while local media said the victims came from the elite special forces.

Only one person survived the crash, which was caused by the pilot flying into a power cable, said Ruslan Atsayev, spokesman for the local Interior Ministry.

"It was definitely an accident. Witnesses said the helicopter was flying parallel to the power lines and then turned into them," he said. Eleven servicemen were previously reported killed in the Thursday afternoon crash.

The crash raised suspicions that guerrillas who are fighting Russian rule in the region had downed the helicopter, but rebel websites did not claim responsibility for any attack.

Earlier this week Russian troops killed rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Atsayev said the helicopter had been carrying border guards into Russia's main army base of Khankala just outside the Chechen capital of Grozny.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said the corpses had been found with 'Vektor' pistols -- a type of weapon only issued to the elite units of the FSB security service. --Reuters