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Russia: Moscow Reports Lost Planes Over Chechnya

Moscow, 5 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - The Russian Air Force today said two warplanes have been lost during missions over Chechnya in the past 48 hours. An air force spokesman said an SU-25 fighter plane disappeared from radar screens while on a reconnaissance mission Sunday. A SU-24 bomber was lost the next day while on a search and rescue mission for the first plane. Efforts to locate the wreckage of the planes have been unsuccessful and there is no word on the fate of the pilots. A Reuters correspondent said he saw the wreckage of a plane and the remains of a pilot in a field outside the town of Urus-Martan, some 20 kilometers southwest of the capital Grozny. Officials said a search was underway for a second pilot who ejected when the plane crashed. Late yesterday, the Chechen military said they had shot down an SU-25 aircraft in the Urus-Martan district. They said one pilot had been killed in the incident. Russia launched its bombing campaign on Chechnya 10 days ago officially to wipe out Islamic militants Moscow blames for a series of bombings in Russian cities. Russian officials say they have sealed off Chechnya with a sanitary zone moving deep into Chechen territory. Chechen officials say Russian tanks and soldiers have advanced to within 20 km of Grozny but Moscow denies that claim.