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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Russian crash: search for terrorist link
Crashed Yak-40
The Russian Government is overseeing the crash probe
Investigators are examining the data recorders of a Russian Yak-40 plane, which crashed on Thursday killing all nine people on board, amid speculation that there was a plot to kill two prominent passengers.

Some newspapers have speculated that Chechens were behind the crash, while others believe that a journalist, Artyom Borovik, was the target.

One of the crash victims, Seiyo Bazhayev - a Chechen - was chairman of the oil company Alliance Group, and was tipped as a future oil and gas minister.

Ziya Bazhayev
Ziya Bazhayev: Chechen enemies
Mr Bazhayev had reportedly helped Chechen separatists finance the war in Chechnya and he "was often threatened," a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, told Reuters television.

Izvestiya reports the deaths under the headline: "A classified top-secret catastrophe".

Tribuna quotes employees of Sovershenno Sekretno - or Top Secret, Mr Borovik's media company - as saying that he had received numerous death threats.

Another paper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, writes: "Sovershenno Sekretno was all about investigative journalism, and Borovik knew too much for his own good."

Official denial

The Russian Government has now taken control the investigation, and officials say they will look into any possible "human factor" in the accident.

But Reuters has quoted officials at Sheremetyevo-1 airport in Moscow as rejecting any possibility that the crash was a terrorist act.

Artyom Borovik
Artyom Borovik: "Knew too much"
The Yak-40 veered sharply to the left after taking off and then crashed from a height of about 50 metres (150 feet).

It was carrying five crew members and four passengers.

The plane was 24 years old, and would have been retired from service next year. It was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder.

The flight was bound for the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where Mr Borovik was due to work on a story about a Ukrainian plant that is reportedly being taken over by a Russian financial group.

Mr Borovik, 37, began his career as a war correspondent in Afghanistan.

He worked for the widely-respected magazine Ogonyok from 1987, just as former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost was giving journalists the chance to write more freely.

As well as his work in Russia, Borovik was widely recognised overseas. He was a special correspondent and interpreter in Moscow for the CBS programme "60 Minutes".

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09 Mar 00 |  Europe
Nine die in Russian plane crash
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