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Ukraine police helicopter crashes, killing 5 just after takeoff

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KIEV, Ukraine - A police helicopter belonging to Ukraine's Interior Ministry crashed shortly after takeoff Tuesday in the central part of the country, killing five people on board, officials said.

The Mi-8 helicopter slammed into the ground at about 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) just after taking off from an airport in the city of Alexandria in the Kirovograd region, about 320 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of the capital, Kyiv, 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.

The Mi-8 is a workhorse helicopter used widely in civilian and military aviation in former Soviet states. Mi-8 crashes are often blamed on poor maintenance, aging equipment, a disregard for safety regulations and a cost-cutting mentality.

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