Officials: At least 5 Russian servicemen killed in Chechnya
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – Gunmen attacked a Russian military convoy in the Chechnya region Tuesday, killing at least five troops and wounding as many as 25 others, officials said. Pro-rebel Web sites claimed more than 20 Russian soldiers were killed.The convoy was traveling near the town of Avtury, southeast of the Chechen capital of Grozny, when it came under fire from three or four areas, according to the Interior Ministry in the mostly Muslim republic in southern Russia. It said preliminary information indicated seven servicemen were killed and 25 wounded.Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov, also citing preliminary information, said five servicemen were killed and 11 wounded.The Web sites Daymohk.org and Kavkazcenter.com, citing unidentified sources, said that more than 20 “Russian occupiers” were killed and many others wounded, and that four military vehicles were destroyed or badly damaged in the attack, which they called revenge for the killing of Chechen rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev by police last month.Daymohk.org said the attack was a “meticulously planned act of revenge” for Sadulayev’s death.Chechnya has been torn by two wars pitting Russian forces and local allies against separatist rebels in the region in the past 12 years. A Kremlin-backed government is in power and large-scale battles are now rare, but fighting persists.The attack, which caused an unusually large number of casualties, also came as President Vladimir Putin played down fighting in Chechnya, stressed that the Russian military is not on the offensive and said local security and law enforcement has taken the leading role.”There are no combat actions going on there. There are outbursts of terrorist actions, but no combat actions,” Putin told a meeting of non-governmental organizations in Moscow before the summit of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations later this month.He compared the role of Russian soldiers in Chechnya to that of their comrades posted in other Russian regions, saying they “are involved in the same activities as in other territories of the country: training, combat duty.”The initial report on the attack on a Russian news agency, Interfax, came out some six hours after the attack occurred.The Chechen Interior Ministry said the attackers escaped, and the pro-rebel Web sites said they had no information about casualties among the assailants.