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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High-Ranking Official Killed in Chechnya

Rebels killed the second-highest government official in Chechnya, a spokesman said Wednesday, the latest in a series of attacks that has forced the military on the defensive despite its claims that the insurgents have been defeated.

Sergei Zveryev, the deputy to Nikolai Koshman, the representative of the federal government in Chechnya, was riding in a car in Grozny when a remote-control bomb ripped through his vehicle Tuesday evening, said Musa Dzhamalkhanov, a spokesman for the temporary administration in Chechnya.

Some analysts said Wednesday that the attack may have been aimed at Grozny Mayor Supyan Makhchayev, who was with Zveryev and was wounded. An assistant to Makhchayev was killed.

The militants appear to have taken the offensive, despite Moscow's claims for months that the insurgents are on the verge of defeat.

"These new events are an answer to Russian claims that the conflict is coming to an end," said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the Caucasus at the Moscow Carnegie Center. "I have a feeling the Russians weren't expecting this."

Scores of troops have been killed in ambushes in recent months. In recent weeks the rebels appear to have stepped up their campaign by trying to kill Chechens who work for the Moscow-backed administration.

The government also appears to be having problems building local support in Chechnya. On Monday, Koshman dismissed Bislan Gantamirov, the former mayor of Grozny, who had been put in charge of a pro-Moscow Chechen militia.

Despite their tactical successes, the rebels probably are not strong enough to oust federal forces from Chechnya, as they did in 1996. And with the Kremlin ruling out a political settlement, the conflict appears to have settled into stalemate.

"I don't see any political will among the Russians to end this war," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute for USA and Canada Studies. "As long as the rebels keep getting supplies, this will go on forever."