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    Kazakhstan military plane crashes, killing 27, including official

    MOSCOW — Kazakhstan’s acting border service chief was among 27 people killed in a military plane crash Tuesday near a southern city, another blow to the agency after he was appointed in June to deal with the aftermath of a mass killing involving a conscript.

    The Russian-made An-72 crashed at 7:55 a.m. about 12 miles away from the city of Shymkent near the border with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan’s Committee for National Security said in a statement.

    The fatalities included a crew of seven and 20 border guards, including the acting head of the ex-Soviet nation’s border protection service, Colonel Turganbek Stambekov, the statement said.

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    Without specifying further details, authorities said an investigation was opened into the crash. No cause was given, but southern Kazakhstan over recent weeks has been buffeted by winds, heavy snows, and low temperatures, causing widespread flight delays.

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    In Ukraine on Tuesday, a police helicopter belonging to the Interior Ministry crashed shortly after takeoff in the central part of the country, killing five people on board, officials said.

    The Mi-8 helicopter slammed into the ground at about 9 a.m. just after taking off from an airport in the city of Alexandria in the Kirovograd region, about 200 miles southeast of the capital, Kiev, ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov said.

    Investigators were working to determine what caused the helicopter to hit the ground as it was gaining speed Tuesday afternoon, Burlakov said. Three of the dead were crew members, and two were ground staff on board the helicopter.

    Stambekov was appointed acting head of the Kazakh border service in June, after a mass killing of 14 frontier troops in a remote Kazakh outpost near China the month before.

    Associated Press