. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Names New Commander in Chechnya

GROZNY -- Moscow appointed a new commander for its troops in Chechnya as rebel fighters continued to pounce on Russian outposts throughout the secessionist region, officials said Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, deputy chief of the North Caucasus military district, became the new federal military commander in Chechnya. He succeeded General Anatoly Shkirko, who was promoted to full commander of Russian Interior Ministry troops, Interfax reported.

Rebels continued raids on Russian troops overnight, wounding three Russian soldiers in nearly two-dozen skirmishes, the Russian military command said in an official statement. It said the skirmishes were mainly in Grozny, the Chechen capital.

The rebels stage most of their attacks in dark hours, making it difficult for the Russians to track them down, and they use grenade launchers for most of the shelling, military officials said.

Since late last month, clashes have been sporadic and the rebels have refrained from major offensives like their recent attack on Chechnya's second-largest city, Gudermes.

Violence in Gudermes erupted Dec. 14, when rebels seized the city in a bid to disrupt Russian-ordered elections.

Ten days of fighting in Gudermes claimed the lives of nearly 300 civilians and dozens of federal troops, said federal military officials. Various sources put rebel casualties at a few dozen to several hundred. The rebels had opposed the Dec. 17 elections for a new leader of the republic and deputies to the new Russian parliament, saying they were an attempt to legitimize Moscow-appointed leader Doku Zavgayev.

Zavgayev won a sweeping victory in the elections, in which many procedural irregularities were reported.

On Wednesday, a top official of Chechnya's Moscow-appointed government said the republic also should have parliamentary elections to "consolidate the process of stabilization."

The incumbent Chechen parliament speaker, Amin Osmayev, told Itar-Tass elections should take place this spring.

Rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev and his supporters have pledged to shun contacts with Moscow-appointed leaders. However, the Kremlin-backed officials claim to have had frequent meetings with rebel commanders, which they say helped ease tensions in some areas.

Human rights activists say some 20,000 people have died in fighting in Chechnya since December 1994, when the Kremlin sent about 40,000 troops into the tiny southern region to squelch its three-year self-proclaimed independence.