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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawmakers: Dagestan Deaths Hidden




State Duma deputies who visited Dagestan accused the federal government Friday of contriving to hide casualty figures for Russian forces fighting Islamic militants in the southern republic.


"They are hiding their losses," Yury Shchekochikhin, a member of the Duma's security committee, said at a news conference. "There have been so many losses that they don't even send corpses out through the airport any more."


Federal casualty figures released later Friday put the number of dead at 230, with 875 wounded. Of the dead, 100 were army troops, 75 were Interior Ministry troops, and 55 were local law enforcement troops, Interfax reported.


A Duma delegation consisting of Shchekochikhin and defense committee members Alexei Arbatov and General Nikolai Bezborodov returned Thursday from a tour of Dagestan, where federal forces have been fighting Islamic militants since the beginning of August.


The army has claimed that more than 2,000 militants have been killed. But the rebels have said that the Russian claims are exaggerated.


Bezborodov of the leftist Popular Rule faction said the Duma delegation was unable independently to confirm casualty figures for either side.


"They say there are hundreds and hundreds or even thousands and thousands [of rebel casualties], but we just don't know," he said in a telephone interview.


Ignoring warnings that snipers were still operating in the area, the members of the Duma, parliament's lower house, said they arrived Wednesday in the village of Karamakhi, which had been a stronghold of the militants. They found that the military operation to oust the rebels had leveled houses but left bunkers intact and allowed rebels to escape back to neighboring Chechnya, Arbatov said.


Dagestani villages had been cleansed of rebels as of Friday, Army General Gennady Groshev said in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, The Associated Press reported. But about 1,500 rebels were massing just inside the Chechen border, possibly readying for a new attack on Dagestan.


Groshev said federal troops had moved to the Dagestan side of the border. Interfax reported they were reinforced by paratroop divisions from Pskov, Tula and Ivanovo.


Meanwhile, the deputies accused the federal government of refusing to meet its promise to give soldiers 22 rubles, less than $1, a day in combat pay and provide housing for their families. Arbatov said he was told that the wives of some men fighting in Dagestan had even been evicted from dormitories for military families.


Supplies were also short and some soldiers had to rely on sympathetic local residents for food, Arbatov said.