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Helicopter Found, No Survivors

Emergency officials on Saturday found the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed with the governor of the oil-rich Sakhalin region aboard. All 20 passengers and crew were dead. The helicopter was found about 115 kilometers southeast of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the rugged, volcano-covered Kamchatka Peninsula.

Emergency officials said 20 bodies had been found, including that of Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov. The other 19 people included regional officials and businessmen.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was dispatched to the scene by President Vladimir Putin, said Sunday that the helicopter fell vertically from a height of about 1,350 meters.

The cause of the crash was not yet known, and Shoigu said it was too early to comment. Putin ordered a special commission, headed by Shoigu, to investigate.

The helicopter disappeared Wednesday.

The Sakhalin regional administration announced three days of mourning, to begin Monday.

First Deputy Sakhalin Governor Ivan Malakhov will fulfill gubernatorial responsibilities until an early election can be called, Interfax said.

(The Moscow Times 25.viii.03)

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