Russian helicopter with eight on board crashes off Arctic archipelago

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     SHORT FLIGHT The helicopter was due to travel a small distance across the sea

The rescue service said the helicopter went down 2 to 3 kilometers (1.3 to 1.9 miles) from Barentsburg at 3.30 p.m.

A Russian helicopter with eight people on board has gone down off the coast of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard in the Arctic Sea. The Norwegian rescue center's northern branch is coordinating the search and rescue operation. "We don't know if it was a controlled landing", an emergency services spokesman said.

The helicopter was flying from the closed settlement of Pyramid to Barentsburg.

Several units, including two helicopters from the local Svalbard governor and ships from the coastguard and local fishermen were at the presumed crash site, Mr Bjoergaas said.

Russia's consul there said five crew and three scientists were on board, all Russians.

Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but Russian Federation has a small coal-mining community in Barentsburg.

"We know the helicopter failed to return".

Svalbard is more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Norway's mainland.

Nationals of all signatory states enjoy "equal liberty of access and entry" to Svalbard and its waters.

In 2008, another Mil Mi-8 crashed near Barentsburg, killing three of its nine occupants.

Russian coal company Arktikugol runs the coal mine at Barentsburg, the main activity, which employs Russian and Ukrainian miners.

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