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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Putin blames army for Chechnya crash
An officer holds the national flag of Russia in front of the Government House
Flags have black ribbons to mark the day of mourning
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the military of not following procedures that would have prevented the deaths of more than 100 soldiers in the helicopter crash in Chechnya on Monday.

Mr Putin said the crash, which investigators believe was most likely the result of a rebel missile attack, proved the need for military reforms.


How did this happen despite a Defence Ministry order against it?

President Putin
Flags are at half mast across Russia and commemorative ceremonies have been held as part of a national day mourning to mark the biggest single military loss since Moscow sent its forces back into Chechnya in 1999.

At the same time, Moscow's troops have intensified operations to flush rebels from Chechen towns and villages.

The Itar-Tass news agency reports Russian forces carried out four special operations overnight, in the capital Grozny, and in two other regions.

Blame game

In a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Mr Putin said he could not understand why a decree banning troops from being transported on the Mi-26 helicopter had been ignored.


Mil Mi-26
  • Heavy lifting transport helicopter
  • Introduced 1983
  • Can carry more than 80 troops and equipment
  • Maximum speed 295 km/h


  • The Russian leader said he was not looking for scapegoats, but he wanted an objective picture of what had happened.

    "How did this happen despite a Defence Ministry order against it?" he asked in televised comments.

    "Our military reforms are aimed at making our armed forces more capable and more effective. All our actions are aimed to avoid such tragedies. Today, we must draw very serious conclusions."

    The incident, which Russian media are already calling the "Second Kursk", has already led to the suspension of the Russian army's aviation commander.

    Helicopter crashes in Chechnya
    Feb 2002 - Eight killed
    Jan 2002 - 14 senior Russian officials killed
    Sept 2001 - 10 passengers and three crew killed
    Aug 2001 - two killed
    July 2001 - nine troops killed
    Feb 2000 - 15 killed

    Investigators said they had found part of a mobile missile launcher near the crash site, lending credence to rebel claims that they shot down the aircraft.

    But prosecutors are also considering technical malfunctions and the possibility of overloading as possible causes of the crash.

    The helicopter had a capacity for about 85 people and was carrying 147.

    Relatives are still in the process of identifying the bodies of the 116 soldiers who died in the crash.

    The death toll was initially put at 115, but media reports said another soldier had subsequently died in hospital.

    Military officials said several more soldiers remained in serious condition in a hospital in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

    See also:

    21 Aug 02 | Europe
    20 Aug 02 | Europe
    19 Aug 02 | Europe
    31 Jul 02 | Europe
    06 Sep 01 | Europe
    31 Jul 01 | Europe
    23 Apr 01 | Europe
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