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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Policeman Killed at Chechnya Border Post




MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan -- About 30 Chechen gunmen attacked a security post Wednesday just across the border from the breakaway republic of Chechnya, killing one Russian police officer and injuring three, an official said.


It was the second major attack on a border post in the southern region of Dagestan in a week. Last Friday, more than 70 gunmen struck a military checkpoint, killing one soldier.


Meanwhile, two Russian fighter jets flew over the presidential palace in the Chechen capital of Grozny, Interfax reported, citing Chechen military officials.


"This is an attempt to push Chechnya into a conflict and escalate tension in the entire region," Chechen Colonel Umar Bankurov was quoted by Interfax as saying.


However, the Russian air force swiftly denied the report.


"Aircraft of the Russian air force conducted no flights in this region Wednesday," air force spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said, Interfax reported.


The always-strained relations between Russia and Chechnya have taken a turn for the worse in recent days with the cross-border shootings.


In Wednesday's attack, the Chechen gunmen fired on the post in the village of Altak with grenade launchers, mortars and automatic rifles, said a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Dagestan.


The militants then took up defensive positions in a forest surrounding the village, located along the Chechen border. The attackers traded fire with Interior Ministry troops and two Russian helicopter gunships for an hour, added the spokesman, who requested anonymity.


One Russian policeman was killed and three more were wounded. He said there were casualties on the Chechen side, but didn't give a figure.


However, a Chechen official claimed that no armed men from Chechnya crossed into Dagestan on Wednesday. The incident "was provoked by Dagestani forces passing themselves off as Chechens and trying to fuel a new conflict between Russia and Chechnya," Interfax quoted Chechen Interior Ministry Colonel Khizar Mezhidov as saying.


Russian forces monitoring Chechnya's border have been subject to frequent ambushes and kidnappings since the 1994-96 war for independence.


Cross-border attacks from Chechnya have increased in frequency and scope recently, and Russia has taken stronger retaliatory measures. After Friday's battle, Russian helicopters fired missiles at a suspected guerrilla camp in Chechnya.


Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has vowed to crack down on violence in the Caucasus region and said last week that the rebel groups in Chechnya "must not only be punished, but exterminated."