The first regularly scheduled civilian passenger flight in seven years arrived at Chechnya’s main airport Thursday, in what officials say is yet another sign that the war-racked Russian region has returned to normal.
A Tu-134 jet carrying 68 passengers touched down at Grozny’s renovated airport just after 1 p.m., greeted by hundreds of spectators and officials, including Ramzan Kadyrov, the widely feared former security chief who became Chechen president this month.
Round-trip Moscow-Grozny flights will initially run three times a week, and could increase to six weekly flights by the summer, officials said.
Despite the rebuilding efforts and government pronouncements, 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.
The last civilian flight into or out of Grozny was in March 1999, said a Chechen government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police keep out fired lawmakers
Police surrounded Ecuador’s Congress on Thursday to keep out dozens of lawmakers who were fired a day earlier by four electoral judges the lawmakers had sought to impeach in the latest constitutional crisis for the small Andean nation.
The four judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal accused the 57 legislators of interfering with a referendum on whether to rewrite the constitution.
Ecuador’s new leftist President Rafael Correa, an admirer of Venezuela’s firebrand leader Hugo Chavez, sided with the court and was pressing ahead with the referendum, a step the congressmen have called illegal.
The court ruling was part of a clash over a constitutional assembly sought by Correa, who wants to limit the power of a political class he blames for the country’s problems.