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Russia: Kremlin Hands Control Of Chechnya Campaign To Police Force

Moscow, 29 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has removed control of the Chechen military campaign from the security services and handed it to the police. The transfer of power from the Federal Security Service (FSB) to the Interior Ministry reflects Kremlin efforts to convince the Russian public that the nearly four-year conflict has been down scaled into a policing operation.

Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said in the capital Grozny today: "The tasks that need to be accomplished include maintaining public order and ensuring safety of Chechen citizens. I think these are tasks for the police, for the Interior Ministry. However, representatives of all law enforcement agencies are going to work in close cooperation."

The Interfax news agency reported today that control of the regional Chechen military headquarters has been handed to Deputy Interior Minister Yurii Maltsev.

The Interior Ministry has its own fighting force but is also staffed by regular police. The report said that Maltsev's main task would be to pave the way for Chechen presidential elections scheduled for 5 October.

Fighting in the region continues despite the transfer-of-power announcement. Interfax reported that four Russian servicemen were injured in two separate attacks.