Newspaper: Troops Losses in Chechnya on the Rise

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 25

The Defense Ministry reported on June 16 that 30 servicemen have been killed in Chechnya since the start of 2007, including one serviceman who was killed in May. According to Interfax, the ministry reported that 3,633 servicemen had been killed in Chechnya since the start of the second military campaign in the republic in 1999. Another 31 servicemen serving in Chechnya are listed as missing. Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 14 that a serviceman from a unit in the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops had committed suicide.

Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on June 19 that the 30 servicemen killed in action in Chechnya between January and June of this year averages out to six servicemen killed a month in the republic and constitutes 16.3 percent of the total number of army deaths during this period. The number of servicemen deaths in Chechnya in 2006 came to just 10 percent of the total number of army deaths. “These figures hardly tally with the military commanders’ optimistic statements about the normalization of the situation in Chechnya, and reports coming out of the republic indicate that the gunmen’s level of activity is not decreasing: They regularly fire on columns, plant land mines and attack servicemen and representatives of the local authorities,” the newspaper wrote.

Despite this, Colonel Vasily Panchenkov, chief of the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops, told Nezavisimaya gazeta that the situation in the republic is more stable and under control that it was last year. Likewise, Internal Troops Lieutenant General Yakov Nedobitko, who is the commander of the Unified Group of Forces in Chechnya, told the newspaper that based on a review of the service and combat activities of military units and subunits in the republic in May of this year, “Thanks to the activity of the federal forces and the law-enforcement agencies, no provocations were committed on the territory of the republic.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta, however, reported that there have been a number of clashes with rebels in recent days. One such clash took place in the Shatoi district, where one rebel was killed in a shootout with security forces. In Vedeno, gunmen fired on a column of 13 vehicles carrying law-enforcement agency staffers, wounding three policemen and the head of the Vedeno district administration. This, the newspaper wrote, “indicates that the terrorists are confident of their own strength and are not afraid to attack large, guarded columns of federal forces.” Nezavisimaya gazeta also reported that a Russian serviceman was injured by a landmine near the village of Shalazhi in Urus-Martan district, while two servicemen were injured by a landmine on the outskirts of the village of Yandi in Achkhoi-Martan district.

“It turns out that the losses of our soldiers and policemen in Chechnya are increasing,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. “But for some reason, the leaders of the security structures, apart from the Russian Federation Defense Ministry, prefer not to talk about them. Thus, Vasily Panchenkov told Nezavisimaya gazeta that he does not have information about the Internal Troops’ losses in Chechnya. When asked why his department does not keep an open record of figures for deaths and injuries in the Internal Troops, as does the Russian Federation Defense Ministry, he replied that this depends on the senior commanders, not on him personally.”

Meanwhile, at least three police officers were wounded when militants raided a police base in Ingushetia on June 20. Nazir Yevloev, a spokesman for the regional Interior Ministry branch, told the Associated Press that the attackers fired grenade launchers and assault rifles at the base in the town of Karabulak. Three officers were wounded in the hour-long gunbattle that followed, he said. The gunmen fled the base, which serves riot police, and local authorities have launched a massive security sweep.