Poor discipline caused deaths: General

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The Independent Online

Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said on Sunday that the killing of 32 Russian soldiers in a rebel ambush was the result of poor discipline in the command structure.

"The reasons for what took place lie above all in the field of inadequately firm centralized command and a lack of efficiency among officials to cope with duties assigned by the Interior and Defense Ministers," Sergeyev said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russian forces on Saturday recovered the of 32 soldiers killed in the ambush after a two-day search. A lone survivor was found along with the dead, but six servicemen were still missing Sunday after the devastating attack on a convoy of 49 Interior Ministry troops last Thursday, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

The ambush was the latest in a series of attacks that inflicted heavy losses on the Russians, demonstrating their vulnerability to the rebels despite their claims to have defeated the rebels and restored federal control over Chechnya.

Sergeyev, who was observing military maneuvers in Tajikistan, said there will be an inquiry to determine who is to blame for the ambush and to what extent, Interfax reported.

"We are ready to expose these mistakes since if problems and mistakes are not revealed, it will be impossible to eliminate them," Sergeyev said.

The defense minister said federal forces have destroyed all major rebel groups in Chechnya. "There are no large pockets of resistance left in the republic," he said. "The militants have been scattered in small groups."

Rebel bands are stepping up their campaign to sabotage Russian troops and the number of ambushes on motorized Russian convoys is on the increase, the military command's press service told ITAR-Tass on Sunday.

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

Russian artillery has been actively bombarding rebel positions overnight and on Sunday around the southern villages of Tsa-Vedeno, Tangi-Chu and Tsentoroy, Interfax reported.

Russia began its latest campaign in late September, and has driven most of the rebels out of the flatlands and into the mountains that make up the republic's southern third. But the rebels have shown little sign of quitting.

Sergeyev said federal forces in Chechnya will change tactics. "In the plains, we will carry out police operations, while in the mountains we will conduct search and reconnaissance missions," he said, according to ITAR-Tass.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson was scheduled to visit the Chechen capital Grozny on Sunday to investigate reports of human rights abuses in detention camps.

Robinson was expected to visit the Chernokozovo detention center, where human rights groups Russians routinely torture prisoners.

Here visit came before a scheduled April 3-4 meeting of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog. Delegates will discuss whether to suspend Russia for alleged abuses in Chechnya.