Russian helicopter crash injures five in Caucasus

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A helicopter carrying top Russian officials who planned to attend an opening ceremony at a ski resort made a hard landing in the North Caucasus region Monday injuring several people, officials said.

The helicopter carrying 13 people was landing near the village of Arkhyz in Karachayevo-Cherkessia region when it went into "an emergency situation" leading to a crash, said the spokesman for regional emergency ministry branch Kantemir Davydov.

"There were 13 people on board, five were hospitalised but their injuries are not critical," he told AFP. He said that according to many eyewitnesses it "does not appear to be an attack" of any sort.

Russian news agencies said the helicopter was carrying the vice president of Russia's Olympic Committee Akhmed Bilalov, who also heads the North Caucasus Resorts company, along with the deputy presidential envoy to the region Maxim Bystrov.

It was not clear if they were among the injured.

North Caucasus Resorts, set up by the government to develop a string of massive resorts in the mountainous region plagued by unrest, was scheduled to launch construction of the first ski lift in Arkhyz, according to the company website. The ceremony was to be attended by many regional officials.

Police sources told Russian news agencies that the accident was caused by a strong gust of wind that spun the craft out of control, crashing it on its side.

© 2011 AFP

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