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Russia: Troops Comb Forests For Rebels After Ambush

Nazran, 12 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian forces today combed forests looking for Chechen fighters who killed 18 soldiers in an ambush yesterday. The ambush on a Russian convoy happened along a road near the village of Galashki in the Russian republic of Ingushetia, near the border with Chechnya. Russian officials warned the attack was a sign the rebels are preparing to expand hit-and-run attacks to areas outside of Chechnya. The Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said the attack indicated the rebels may be trying to extend the zone of conflict from Chechnya to Ingushetia or Daghestan.

Russian commanders say that rebel units have now reestablished a radio communications network and are bolstering their numbers with recruits and mercenaries from other countries.

Ingush President Ruslan Aushev criticized the Russian military today on Russian television for failing to secure Chechnya's border and prevent the rebel attack.

His comments came after reports that Russian soldiers suffered more casualties during an attack on the southern Chechen settlement of Serzhen-Yurt.

Meanwhile, Russian investigators accompanied by armed police yesterday conducted a search of the Moscow headquarters of Media-MOST, a major private media group.

Media-MOST officials denounced the raid, suggesting it was punishment for the company's coverage of Chechnya and investigations into corruption. This was denied by the authorities, who said the raid concerned a criminal probe and was not a political action.