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Chechnya: Russians Suffer Casualties After Ambush

Moscow, 30 March 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian officials today said a number of government troops have been either killed or are missing after Chechen fighters ambushed two military convoys in southeastern Chechnya. The Kremlin spokesman for Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, told reporters that 49 OMON police troops were in one of the convoys ambushed yesterday near the village of Vedeno. "Of the 49 troops who were in the column yesterday, 16 are alive and doing well. They are absolutely safe now," Yastrzhembsky said. "The fate of the other 33 is being investigated. According to OMON troops who got out, three were killed in front of their eyes."

Yastrzhembsky said that a second convoy was then sent to the rescue but was also ambushed. At least 20 soldiers had been wounded before the rescue mission was forced to retreat.

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said today after returning from the North Caucasus that the situation in Chechnya "is being fully controlled" by the Russian military.

Meanwhile, a Russian tank commander has been charged with raping and killing a Chechen woman. But Human Rights Watch group said in a statement that the case against Colonel Yury Budanov fails to address "the pattern of sexual assault" by Russian troops against the Chechens. The group said it has many other documented cases.