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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chopper Makes Safe Landing in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- A military helicopter made an emergency landing in Chechnya on Friday -- the day after another chopper crashed in the republic, prompting Kremlin aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky to urge the military to better look after its aging helicopter fleet.

The Mi-8 helicopter, flying from Khankala near Grozny to Vladikavkaz in the neighboring republic of North Ossetia, made an emergency landing after its crew suspected engine trouble. The helicopter landed safely and no one was hurt, said Alexander Machevsky, a spokesman for the Kremlin information department on Chechnya.

Another Mi-8 crashed in Chechnya on Thursday, killing seven passengers and badly injuring three crewmen -- the third military helicopter lost in the republic in two weeks. Officials said Friday that engine failure was the most likely reason for Thursday's crash.

Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesman on Chechnya, urged the military to make a thorough check of its crumbling helicopter fleet.

"That is an alarming trend, and it's quite obvious that conclusions must be made about the equipment's quality," Yastrzhembsky said.

During Thursday's crash, witnesses described the helicopter spinning in the air and acting irregularly before it slammed into the ground and exploded near Grozny, Interfax quoted Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky as saying. The aircraft had been carrying doctors and rescue workers on a mission to search for an Mi-24 helicopter that disappeared in Chechnya on Sunday and has remained missing.

Two weeks ago, an Mi-8 helicopter flying over Chechnya exploded after taking off, killing all 14 aboard, including several high-ranking Interior Ministry officers. The cause hasn't yet been determined, and there have been conflicting reports about whether a rebel attack or an accident was to blame.

A spokesman for the Federal Security Service said Saturday that terrorist involvement hasn't been entirely ruled out in the three crashes -- but there is no evidence so far pointing in that direction.

Instead, Alexander Zdanovich said equipment failure had caused the crashes, which have killed 24 soldiers.

"One of the features of any equipment is that it fails. And if it is aviation, it always has grave consequences," Itar-Tass quoted Zdanovich as saying.

In Grozny, hundreds of Chechen villagers demonstrated Saturday, demanding federal forces release civilians detained in recent security sweeps, an official said Sunday. About 400 people from the villages of Novye Atagi and Starye Atagi and the Shali district took part in the protest, the official in Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration said on condition of anonymity.

Starye and Novye Atagi were closed off for nine days until last week, and residents said troops beat men, harassed women and looted houses. The villages of Shali and Germenchuk were unblocked Sunday after a five-day sweep.

In an effort to stem abuses, local police accompanied federal troops during the sweeps. But Abdul Sepiyev, deputy chief of the local administration, said several instances of abuse on the first day of the sweep were reported.

Putin's human rights envoy Vladimir Kalamanov said Friday that 42 servicemen had been convicted of abuses against civilians in Chechnya during the past two years, Interfax reported.