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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
MPs hit in Chechen helicopter attack
Residents of Grozny protest against continued fighting
Residents of Grozny protest against continued fighting
Two Russian members of parliament have been receiving treatment for injuries sustained when their helicopter came under fire near the border with Chechnya.

The pilot of the helicopter was fatally wounded in the attack, and the co-pilot was forced to make an emergency landing.

Alexei Arbatov and Yevgeny Zelenov, members of the State Duma's defence committee, underwent minor surgery to remove fragments of metal from their legs after returning to Moscow.

The Duma press service says they are in satisfactory condition.

Rebel regret

The helicopter was returning from a visit to the frontier between Chechnya and Ingushetia when it came under rifle fire from a forest near the village of Nesterovskoye.

Alexei Arbatov
Alexei Arbatov: Tribute to co-pilot
A spokesman for Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov was quoted as saying that the gunmen would not have attacked if they had known there were parliamentarians on board.

The members of parliament had been in Ingushetia to discuss draft legisation affecting military personnel.

Mr Arbatov paid tribute to the co-pilot, who landed the helicopter outside the capital, Nazran, saying that he displayed "great courage and skill".

Dragging on

Twenty months after Russian troops began their second offensive against the breakaway republic - described at the time as a lightning "anti-terrorist" operation - the rebels show no sign of giving in.

Russian troops
Russian forces come under daily attack
Mr Maskhadov's office said the rebels killed three pro-Russian police officers overnight.

In response federal troops blocked all roads leading out of the capital, Grozny, and were conducting "cleansing operations" aimed at rounding up suspected rebels.

A senior Kremlin official conceded last week that the conflict had dragged on longer than expected.

Earlier this year President Putin announced a troop withdrawal, which has since been halted.

Official estimates of 3,000 federal troops killed and 9,000 injured are widely considered to be too low.

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See also:

03 May 01 | Europe
Chechnya violence intensifies
25 Apr 01 | Europe
Six die in Chechnya blast
20 Apr 01 | Europe
UN condemns Russia over Chechnya
15 Apr 01 | Europe
Second Chechen official killed
13 Apr 01 | Europe
Top official killed in Chechnya
13 Mar 01 | Media reports
Russia begins Chechnya pullout
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