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Saturday, 19 February, 2000, 13:00 GMT
Russians say Chechens down helicopter



The Russian government says separatist fighters in Chechnya have shot down a Russian helicopter, killing fifteen people.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Interior Minister, Vladimir Rushailo, as saying the helicopter was brought down yesterday.

However, he gave no further details.

The statement, a rare admission by Moscow of losses in the Chechen war, came as Russian troops continued their offensive against rebels holding out in Chechnya's southern mountains.

Planes and helicopters have been attacking targets in the Argun and Vedeno gorges, backed up by artillery fire.

Up to seven-thousand rebels are estimated to be resisting the Russian attacks. Many retreated there after the Russians took control of the Chechen, capital, Grozny.

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