Russia: April 10, 2002

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The search for a missing Russian Mi-24 Hind gunship lost in Chechnya over two months ago was stepped up recently, after reports claiming that rebels had found its crash site started to arrive in Khankala. According to the North Caucasus regional border guard department, an Mi-24 Hind and a MI-8 Hip helicopter operated by the Federal Border Guard Service were caught in bad weather while flying along the Vladikavkaz - Tuskhoroi - Vladikavkaz route on 3 February 2002. The MI-8 landed in Beslan, North Ossetia, while the MI-24 commander told ground control in the last radio exchange that he was at an altitude of 1,500 meters and starting to descend. At a height of 600 meters contact broke off. 

Despite intensive search efforts, by early April no wreckage had been found and the rebel Chechen leadership claimed that they had "full information on the fate of the Russian MI-24 helicopter, board number 22464; it fully controls the situation with the helicopter and its crew." On 4 April, the Kavkaz-Tsentr News Agency reported that the Chechen command had offered Russia some information about the missing helicopter and its crew members, in exchange for the release of 20 Chechen civilians. However, the Russians only contacted them once and since then, nothing had been heard

An air search group flew 12 sorties on the morning of 5 April, reportedly coming under intensive rebel fire northeast of the Agishty village, north-west of the Malye Varandy village as well as in the vicinity of the Eshilkhatoi and Chishki villages. The helicopters took only minor damage.

On the 6th, Kavkaz reported that a representative of Chechen commander Abu Valid reportedly held negotiations with the Russians on the lost helicopter and crew. Russian Federal Border Guard Service Director Konstantin Totsky told a 9 April news conference that he thought the Chechen claim might be true, since they communicated the crew members' names and ID numbers. - Adam Geibel

 

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