Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 5

At about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 27, a Mi-8 helicopter belonging to the Russian Interior Ministry exploded in mid-air while en route from the Chechen capital to the northern Chechen village of Shelkovskaya. It was about four kilometers from reaching its destination when it blew up. Among the fourteen men killed were Lieutenant General Mikhail Rudchenko, a deputy Russian minister of internal affairs, and Lieutenant General Nikolai Garidov, Rudchenko’s deputy, plus four colonels in the police (, January 28). The cause of the accident is yet to be determined. It was announced that President Putin had taken personal control of the investigation into the incident (, January 28). The newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on January 31 that there are four versions on what happened: separatists shot the helicopter down; there was a serious mechanical failure; “an explosive device had been placed on the helicopter before it left Khankala [military base]–to accept this version would be to recognize an act of treason”; or, finally, a member of the guard on board the helicopter accidentally discharged a grenade launcher he was carrying. Earlier, on September 17 of last year, the weekly Argumenty i Fakty recalled, a surface-to-air missile killed four army generals and eleven military colonels who were flying in a military helicopter over the city of Djohar [Grozny] (Argumenty i Fakty, January 30).