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The Death of Alexander Lebed

Last changed 18 May 2002

Pravda.RU:Top Stories:More in detail
11:45 2002-04-29

Alexander Lebed Killed In An Air Crash

Yesterday, the list of Mi-8 helicopter crashes grew by one. Alexander Lebed, governor of Krasnoyarsk Region, died. Together with his deputies, he set out to fly to the opening of a new ski line in Yermakov district, in the south of Krasnoyarsk region.

The Mi-8 helicopter, which belonged to Yeniseisky Meridian air company fell from a height of 30 m, hitting an electricity transmission line. The accident took place at 10.25 (local time). The witnesses of the tragedy were workers of transport police, who passed the scene while traveling along the Abakan-Kyzyl highway. According to the witnesses, there was no fire. In thirty minutes, they reached the spot and managed to render medical assistance to the victims. All of them were alive at that moment. A bit later, another Mi-8 helicopter reached the spot, carrying the second half of the delegation.

The injured people were transported to the Yermakovskoye settlement and, afterwards, to the city of Abakan. However, at 13.00 (local time), the medical staff of the airport pronounced Alexander Lebed dead.

According to the latest information, as a result of the catastrophe, nine people died. There was a total of 21 people onboard. The victims were mainly the passengers who set near the cockpit: Alexandr Lebed, workers of the regional administration, and journalists.

A special commission for investigating the accident was created, which headed by emergency minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to the wish of Alexander Lebeds family, the governor will be buried in Moscow, in the cemetery of the Novodevicy Convent (New Nunnery of Maiden).

Oleg Artyukov

Translated by Vera Solovieva

Read the original in Russian:

Russian Politician Killed In Crash

April 29, 2002 Posted: 3:55 AM EDT (0755 GMT)

Lebed found fame when he refused coup leaders' orders to send his paratroopers to surround Yeltsin's headquarters.

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Alexander Lebed, who played an important role in foiling the 1991 coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ran for president against Boris Yeltsin five years later, has died in a helicopter crash, officials said.

The 52-year-old governor of the vast Krasnoyarsk territory of Siberia died in hospital after the Mi-8 in which he was travelling came down on Sunday morning near the town of Abakan, about 3,400 km (2,100 miles) east of Moscow, Russian television reported.

There were 19 people, including a three-member crew, aboard the helicopter when it crashed after hitting a power line, The Associated Press reported the Emergency Situations Ministry in Moscow as saying. Seven, including Lebed, died, and 12 were in critical condition in hospital, a ministry official said.

CNN's Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty said the pugnacious, outspoken action man was hugely popular.

"Built like a bear and hands like a vice, he was gruff, outspoken and didn't kowtow to anyone," she said. "This came across on TV and really appealed to Russians."

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the families of all those killed in the crash, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

A military man for most of his life, Lebed first gained fame during the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev. The coup leaders ordered him to send in his paratroopers to surround the headquarters of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He refused, a move that to a large degree led to the coup's collapse.

In 1995 after a dispute with the defence minister Lebed was forced to retire from the military. The father of three turned to politics and won a seat in parliament. A year later, he ran for president, coming in third. Yeltsin named him head of the Presidential Security Council where he brokered an end to the first war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

In 1998 Lebed was elected governor of Krasnoyarsk, an area four times the size of France, where he quickly ruffled feathers, falling foul of local business barons who helped him become governor but whom he later called "mafia." Lebed called in police investigators from Moscow to help stamp his authority.

Alexei Arbatov, deputy head of parliamentary defence committee, said Lebed's passing was likely to upset a shaky political balance in the region which hinged to a vast degree on the charismatic governor's popularity.

"Passions will be boiling and big money will come into play," Arbatov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "In a region like Krasnoyarsk, the life and fate of large capitals, groupings and influential individuals depend on the governor.

Arbatov said Lebed had made many enemies in Krasnoyarsk and said the crash might have been orchestrated by one of them.

There were journalists on board, too, she said, the weather was bad and it appeared the helicopter had simply flown into the power lines in near-zero visibility.

A commission to investigate the crash, headed by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, has been set up, Interfax reported.

-- CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

Russia: Cpj Mourns Three Journalists Killed In Helicopter Crash

New York, April 29, 2002CPJ mourns the tragic deaths of three journalists who were killed yesterday morning when their Mi-8 helicopter crashed in the Krasnoyarsk Region of Siberia.

According to press reports, Natalya Pivovarova, of the 7 Channel television company; Igor Gareyev, of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Broadcasting Company; and Konstantin Stepanov, of the newspaper Segodnyashnyaya Gazeta, were traveling with Krasnoyarsk governor Aleksandr Lebed and other regional officials to the opening ceremony of a new downhill ski slope when their aircraft crashed.

Lebed and six other passengers also died.

The helicopter was flying in poor weather conditions and crashed after hitting a power line. One of the pilots who was hospitalized said the crew had been using an outdated map that "did not have the power line on it," the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.