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Moscow `victimised' lite force

Moscow (AP) - The head of Russia's lite airborne troops yesterday became the latest commander to assail Moscow over the war in Chechnya, blaming the army's failures on political and military leaders.

Colonel-General Yevgeny Podkolzin said his troops had been "victimised" by inadequate intelligence, insufficient funding, faulty timing and poor strategic planning. "If the state wants to use force, the state must provide for it," he said.

The troops were sent in when bad weather made the use of aircraft impossible. They also were in transition, absorbing and training the annual batch of new conscripts.

General Podkolzin largely blamed the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service, the agency charged with gathering intelligence about spies, terrorists and major criminals in Russia. "The head of the FSK [Sergei Stepashin] told us there are gangs of criminals there.Instead, it turned out there was a professional army" - trained as well as his forces and armed with more grenade-launchers and better communications equipment, he said.

General Podkolzin said he did not expect his airborne forces, who largely perform missions at the enemy's rear, to be in a "real war". Almost 250 paratroopers, he said, had been killed.