Russian dignitaries visit Pole by Helicopter

MI-8 helicopter at Pole
Polies surround one of the two Russian aircraft

Russians Artur Chilingarov (deputy Duma speaker), Nikolai Patrushev, deputy leader of the FSB (Federal Security Service), and Vladimir Pronichev (director of the Border Guard Service), and others, visit Pole on two FSB MI-8 helicopters. The trip was led by polar explorer Chilingarov (who'd been to Pole before). They had flown to PH from Punta Arenas via KGI on a Antonov An 24 aircraft; the helicopters had been positioned at PH. They reached Pole on the evening of 7 January. The trip was led by polar explorer and Duma vice speaker Artur Chilingarov. It was variously described as a kickoff event for the International Polar Year, and as a PR effort to undermine the US "monopoly" at the South Pole.

Actually, four helicopters were on deck at the same time...in addition to the two Russian aircraft, there were two Bell 407 helicopters constituting the Polar First expedition...back again to complete their journey after their 2003 crash shortly after they'd left Pole (more information on the Polar First ventures). A few more photos:

4 helos at Pole
Here are all 4 of the helicopters amidst the annual ice sculptures. The Polar First aircraft are at right.
Russian MI-8 helicopter
Here's a closeup of one of the Russian aircraft.
the rear view of the MI-8
An aft view of the helicopter.
Cynthia Chiang in front of the helicopter
And this is a hero shot of physicist/cosmologist Cynthia Chiang who is to be credited for the photos on this page.
gift from Artur Chilingarov, Hero of the Soviet Union

Chilingarov went to comms to give Vladimir Putin a call. More media coverage of this visit...a Lenta.ru article (in Russian) about the trip, and a Russia Today article about the group's return to Moscow.

During one of his visits, Artur gave this crystal ball (left) to the station--it is on display in one of the glass cases in the B3 hallway, along with his business card. Not many people could (or would) put "Hero of the Soviet Union" on their business card (?)...