Russia reinforces Chechnya border

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The Independent Online
RUSSIA IS to send extra troops to its border with Chechnya as the simmering armed conflict in the north Caucasus worsens.

In the past two days, 14 people have been killed in gun battles between dozens of local paramilitaries and Russian security forces in the border area, where tensions have been high since the end of the Chechen war in 1996. Yesterday five men fired on a police patrol near the border between Chechnya and Dagestan, beginning a shoot-out in which two people were killed.

Chechen officials claimed that two Russian jets dropped bombs and fired missiles into Kenkhi, a mountain village. Russians repeatedly bombed Chechen villages during the 21-month war, in which tens of thousands died. The Interfax news agency quoted villagers saying that residents had been injured and houses destroyed.

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman denied any bombing, but said jets may have been flying over Chechnya on a training mission.

Russia said last month that it had the right to carry out pre-emptive strikes on armed groups within Chechnya, and has used helicopters and mortar shells in border clashes in the past month.

The additional Russian forces, made up of Interior Ministry troops and locally deployed regular soldiers, will be used to protect the area from 150 fighters who have occupied a village in Dagestan. Russian officials declined to say how many troops would be sent.