Ilya Shabalkin, a representative of the Regional Operational Staff for the Counter-Terrorist Operation in the North Caucasus, denies the information disseminated by Chechen gunmen that the crew of the Federal Border Service Mi-24 helicopter lost February 3rd, 2002, is captured. Shabalkin told journalists that the staff had data that "the gunmen had found fragments of the helicopter and the pilots' documents." This version is supported by the fact that information about the crew disseminated by gunmen contains inaccuracies. The helicopter's crew is most probably dead, Shabalkin noted. Contact was lost with the Mi-24 performing, together with another helicopter, a Mi-8, a sanitary flight under extreme weather conditions near Khankala airport. The Mi-8 landed at Beslan airport. Army and interior troops units were involved in the search operation as well as border guards, but they failed to find the chopper. According to the Federal Border Service, a three-men crew was on board the Mi-24.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign