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Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
Chechen ambush blamed on commanders
The fight has moved from Grozny to the southern mountains
Russian forces have been ambushed in Grozny too
The Russian Defence Minister, Igor Sergeyev, has blamed poor command and indiscipline for last week's Chechen rebel ambush which led to the death of at least 43 Russian soldiers.

Mr Sergeyev said there would be an inquiry to determine what went wrong, but steps had already been taken to ensure such incidents would not happen again.

Another senior Russian commander, Colonel Gennady Troshev, said it was a mistake to have let the troops travel along a road that was not fully under Russia control.

The convoy of 49 Interior Ministry troops in two armoured vehicles was attacked in mountain territory near the village of Zhani-Vedeno on Wednesday.

A Russian officer told the Interfax news agency on Sunday that 37 Interior Ministry troops were killed.


Grozny residents warm themselves at a bonfire
Grozny residents warm themselves at a bonfire
Six soldiers from a regular army unit sent to help them following the attack also died, and at least 11 servicemen are still missing.

The ambush was the latest in a series of attacks that have shown that Russian forces are still vulnerable to rebel attack, despite their claims to have restored federal control.

Thirty two bodies were found on Saturday but 13 had to be left behind because they had been rigged with mines, Russia's Interior Ministry said.

Mr Sergeyev's comments coincided with the arrival in the region of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson.

She flew to the Chechen capital, Grozny, on Sunday but was denied access to detention centres she had requested to visit.

On Saturday, she visited camps where thousands of Chechens have taken refuge since the Russian assault began last October.

Militants 'scattered'

Mr Sergeyev said federal forces have destroyed all major rebel groups in Chechnya.

"There are no large pockets of resistance left in the republic," he said while watching military manoeuvres in Tajikstan.

"The militants have been scattered in small groups."

The number of ambushes on motorized Russian convoys in Chechnya is on the increase, the military command's press service told the Itar-Tass agency on Sunday.

There has been no let up in rebel attempts to infiltrate villages in southern Chechnya in order to replenish dwindling food supplies, the press service said.

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See also:

02 Apr 00 | Europe
UN rights chief visits Grozny
10 Mar 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The most dangerous place on Earth
02 Mar 00 | Europe
Dramatic rebel ambush in Grozny
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