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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 December 2007, 21:31 GMT
Russia jails troops over Chechnya
Russian troops at a checkpoint in Chechnya (file)
Russia maintains a large military presence in Chechnya
Two Russian interior ministry troops have been convicted of killing three civilians in Chechnya.

Lt Yevgeny Khudyakov and Lt Sergei Arakcheyev were given sentences of 17 and 15 years respectively over the deaths at a checkpoint in January 2003.

Few Russian troops have been convicted for offences in Chechnya. These sentences are among the longest given to Russian officers serving there.

Chechnya is now relatively stable after two major wars in the past 13 years.

Set alight

The court heard that the Khudyakov and Arakcheyev executed three Chechen construction workers at a checkpoint outside Grozny five years ago.

The civilians were ordered out of their vehicle and forced to lie on the ground before being shot.

Their bodies were then doused in petrol and set alight.

Khudyakov and Arakcheyev both denied the charges and had twice been acquitted in earlier trials.

However, Russia's Supreme Court overturned the earlier rulings and sent the case back to a military court.

Both men were also stripped of their military rank by the court on Thursday.

Khudyakov did not appear in court and was sentenced in absentia. Police are said to be trying to trace him.

Chechnya is largely peaceful after the recent conflicts involving separatist guerrillas and Russian government troops.

Human rights groups have accused Russian forces of widespread atrocities in Chechnya.

Russia has deployed thousands of troops in the Muslim-majority republic and there are still sporadic attacks against government property and employees.

Much of the violence has now moved to the neighbouring Russian republic of Dagestan, where attacks have been blamed on criminal gangs, Islamist militants and militias loyal to the government.

Q&A: The Chechen conflict
10 Jul 06 |  Europe
Regions and territories: Chechnya
18 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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