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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Helicopter Crash Near Grozny Kills at Least 14 Servicemen

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- A helicopter crashed in Chechnya on Thursday, killing at least 14 federal servicemen and seriously wounding two others, officials said.

According to preliminary information, the Mi-8 helicopter did not come under hostile fire and crashed after hitting a power line near Grozny, said Vladimir Gerasin, a spokesman for the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

He said that 14 of 16 people on board died in the crash and two others were badly wounded.

Gerasin said the helicopter belonged to the federal Interior Ministry and caught fire after slamming into the ground on the outskirts of Grozny.

Interfax and Itar-Tass quoted other officials as saying the helicopter apparently belonged to the border guards service.

NTV television showed the gutted wreckage of the helicopter scattered over a field, surrounded by emergency rescue crews.

Federal forces battling rebels in Chechnya have lost a number of helicopters to ground fire, but many others crashed due to pilot errors or technical malfunctions.

The Defense Ministry said earlier this month that the military has lost 15 aircraft and 22 pilots in action over Chechnya since 2001.

In Russia's worst military aviation catastrophe, an overcrowded Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter was shot down by a shoulder-fired missile as it prepared to land at a base near Grozny in August 2002.

Burning fuel gushed into the cabin, killing 127 of the 147 passengers.

Officials and media reports said that many other crashes of helicopters in Chechnya were caused by increasing wear-and-tear of Soviet-built aircraft left without proper maintenance because of a shortage of funds in the military.

Harsh weather in the mountainous region has also contributed to the mounting losses of military aircraft.