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By Elena Afanasyeva

Lieutenant-Colonel Konstantinov’s Law

Novaya Gazeta, June 4, 2001

On May 31, 2001, a military helicopter was shot down off Ingushetia. Deputies of the State Duma, Alexei Arbatov (Yabloko) and Evgeny Zelyenov (Regions of Russia Group) on board the helicopter. They were returning from a working trip to Chechnya.

The commander of the crew Lieutenant-Colonel Leonid Konstantinov died from wounds. Deputies Arbatov and Zelyenov were injured by the fragmentation of shells. On their return to Moscow in the evening of May 31 they underwent operations for the removal of splinters.

Arbatov told Novaya Gazeta about the accident:

- My colleague, member of the Defence Committee of the Duma. Evgeny Zelyenov and I were on a working trip with Colonel Dmitri Popov to study the situation in the mountain areas of Chechnya. We had several meetings and discussions with the representatives of the Federal Border Service and other departments. An important task of this trip was to discuss the draft law “On the Status of a Participant in Military Actions” that we have prepared. This law aims to install order and clearly define the status, privileges, payments and whole range of issues related to the participation of the military in armed conflicts.

As developers of the draft we needed to discuss the main provisions of the draft with direct participants in themilitary actions.

On May 31 we were returning from Itum-Kalye to Mineralniye Vodi by a military helicopter to fly from there to Moscow on board a civilian plane. We flew by Argun Gorgem then Urus-Martan and crossed the border of Chechnya and Ingushetia. And approximatelyš two or three kilometres from the border near Nestreovskaya settlement we encountered machine-gun fire from two machine-guns. The commander of the crew Lieutenant-Colonel Leonid Konstantinov suffered mortal injuries immediately. The helicopter was seriously damaged too – the controls were damaged, the petrol tanks were shot through and petrol and hydraulic fluids were pouringinto the saloon.

We owe our lives to the professionalism and self-control of the navigation officer Captain Valery Norov. He managed to extract the helicopter about 40 km deeper into Ingushetia and land it in a field. There was a real danger of a explosion and we immediately evacuated the Commander from the helicopter and jumped out ourselves. All this time another military helicopter was flying above us – they observed us being shot werefollowing to provide help.

Within ten minutes two more helicopters arrived - one of them took us on board. Doctors were on board this helicopter. Throughout the journey to the airport in Guzel they did everything they could to save the life of Colonel Konstantinov. He was taken to hospital straight from the airport, but his injures turned out to be fatal.

After this incident that we think that our debt before the Colonel is to ensure passage of our draft law to the adoption by the Duma. We hope that the first reading will take place in June, although we anticipate serious resistance from the executive authorities, as the law brings all the payments and allowances into a system. And wherever there is a system, it becomes difficult to “fish in troubled waters”, to create havoc and formally announce the end of the military operation and deprive the military of payments, as is the case at present.

Novaya Gazeta, June 4, 2001

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