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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Open Fire, Kill 3 in Ingushetia

Russian troops opened fire near a village in Ingushetia, a republic neighboring Chechnya, killing three people, Ingush Deputy President Boris Agapov announced Friday.

Agapov told Interfax that three civilians were killed and four wounded by the Russian fire near Arshti on Thursday. Itar-Tass quoted an Ingush Defense Ministry official as saying that the outskirts of Arshti had come under fire again Friday afternoon, during an airstrike aimed at the nearby Chechen village of Bamut.

News agencies reported that troops in about 40 armored vehicles and as many trucks blocked off the border villages of Arshti and Dattykh.

Russian commander Major General Nikolai Tkachev said the column was moving through Ingushetia toward Chechnya when it was attacked Thursday by Chechen rebels and returned fire.

Russian forces claimed rebel fighters have been staying in Ingush villages along the Chechen border, although this was denied by Ingush President Ruslan Aushev on Thursday.

Aushev and Ingush government leaders on Thursday called on the Russian authorities to pull out all troops from Ingushetia, to prevent war from breaking out in the republic.

The former speaker of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov, expressed his alarm at Russian attempts to spread the conflict into Ingushetia.

"The conflict in the Northern Caucasus is being deliberately expanded. A goal of the Moscow authorities is to cancel the presidential elections in Russia," Khasbulatov told Interfax on Thursday.

"They will try to prove that no one but Yeltsin can head the country in such a difficult situation," he said. Khasbulatov, who is of Chechen nationality, was one of the leaders of the October 1993 rebellion in the White House, then Moscow's parliament building.

"Generals are deciding the problems of war and peace in Russia, as never before," he said, adding that the military appeared to be expanding the conflict to try to achieve "military victory."

Arshti and Dattykh, the Ingush villages that came under fire, lie in steep woodland, just a few kilometers over the border from the Chechen village of Bamut, a key rebel stronghold that has held out against constant Russian assaults throughout the 14-month war.Bamut has come under relentless bombardment since the rebels occupied the village last April, forcing the civilian population to flee to the neighboring villages in Ingushetia.

People do move back and forth across the border to bring supplies to Bamut, which has been blockaded for nearly a year.