Helicopter crashes in Chechnya; kills 18

A Russian military helicopter heading to the scene of a clash with separatist rebels crashed in Chechnya, killing all 18 people aboard, emergency officials said. There were conflicting reports about whether the craft was shot down, but the fact that it was en route to a military operation underlined that Chechnya's insurgency remains active, although significantly quieter than a few years ago. The Mi-8 helicopter went down today while flying to southern Chechnya as part of an operation against militants, said an official at the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry. The emergency official said preliminary indications were that the helicopter - carrying 15 soldiers and a crew of three - was shot down, but a ministry duty officer in the region later called the crash an accident, saying a rotor blade had struck something during an attempt to land.