Rebels Say They Executed 9 OMON




Chechen rebels said Wednesday they had executed nine OMON special police troops who were captured in the southern mountains after Moscow refused to swap them for an officer accused of raping and killing a Chechen woman.


There was no immediate comment from Russian officials on the report on the Chechens' Internet site, but one said earlier there had been no question of handing over the officer. The rebels had threatened to kill the nine after an 8 a.m. Wednesday deadline.


The Interior Ministry troops were from Perm and part of a group of special forces ambushed last week in Zhani Vedeno, near the Vedeno Gorge. A total of 43 servicemen died in the attack.


"The captives were executed today at 8 a.m. The Chechen side is ready to exchange the corpses of the OMON from Perm for wounded mujahideen," Kavkaz.org said, quoting Chechen commanders.


"The Kremlin refused to exchange the nine Perm OMON for the sadist Colonel Budanov. ... The exchange should happen in the next two or three days, because it is not possible to keep the corpses unburied for any longer."


Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said he had information that 11 commandos were still alive after the ambush.


"We have plunged into an analysis about what happened during the shooting of the Perm OMON. We have launched an investigation in every department responsible and have started active work on those people involved in the shooting," Rushailo told ORT television from the region.


"There is a lot of contradictory information, but we have information that among the OMON troops 11 people are alive. We will have to check it."


Acting Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said earlier that Moscow had not considered swapping Colonel Yury Budanov, arrested late last month for the rape and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman.


"Even the idea of that does not enter our minds," Interfax quoted Ustinov as saying.


Authorities had cast doubt on whether the nine men held were still alive when the rebels demanded over the weekend that the military hand over the colonel.


Federal troops have increasingly come under fire in south Chechnya.


In Komsomolskoye, which was flattened earlier this spring during three weeks of fighting, the stench of rotting corpses is so strong that it's impossible to breathe without a mask.


Footage obtained by Reuters Television showed Emergency Situations Ministry workers removing corpses.


Sergeant Andrei Alexeyev told Reuters Television: "Our side suffered colossal losses. After bombardment by aviation and heavy artillery they sent 200 to 300 men in. ... Of them you'd get groups of two or three crawling back injured."


The workers said they had recovered 265 corpses over the last week.


Almost all of them were Chechens, which Alexeyev said was because most Russian soldiers' bodies had been collected earlier by the military.