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Civilian flights to Chechnya start again
by Musa Sadulayev

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
8 March 2007

GROZNY, Russia (AP) - The first regularly scheduled civilian passenger flight in six years arrived at Chechnya's main airport Thursday, in what officials say is yet another sign that normalcy has returned to the war-wracked Russian region.

A Tu-134 jet carrying 68 passengers touched down at Grozny's renovated airport just after 1 p.m. It was greeted by officials, including Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who said he hopes to make the facility an international airport.

Moscow-Grozny flights will run three times a week round-trip to begin with and could increase to six flights weekly by the summer, officials said.

The airport was closed in 1999 as the second war in a decade erupted. Even at the end of 2005, it was a shattered and decrepit facility, its runways pocked by shell holes and the terminal building blown out.

In recent years, large-scale fighting has all but ended as Russian and Chechen allied forces killed several top separatist leaders and co-opted many rebel fighters.

The Kremlin and the Chechen administration it backs have spent lavishly to renovate the ravaged capital and other towns, hosting concerts, beauty pageants and sporting events to try and show that calm has returned.

Despite the rebuilding efforts and government pronouncements, however, Chechnya remains plagued by widespread unemployment, a battered infrastructure, a large refugee population and rampant kidnappings of civilians that have been blamed on paramilitary forces controlled by Kadyrov.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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