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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Tracking Down Chechen Rebels' Arms

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that Moscow had asked other former Soviet republics to check their arsenals because of suspicions that some of their air-defense missiles could have gotten into the hands of rebels in Chechnya.

The Foreign Ministry has sent diplomatic notes asking all former Soviet republics to conduct an inventory of their Soviet-made air defense missiles, including Igla shoulder-fired missiles, Ivanov said in televised remarks. "During the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, we have recently seized several dozen Igla launchers, which had their serial numbers, and we want to find out how they got there," Ivanov said during a meeting with his counterparts from five former Soviet republics.

Rebels in Chechnya recently have shot down several Russian military helicopters using shoulder-fired missiles. The attacks included the August downing of an Mi-26 transport helicopter that killed at least 119 people.

"We must do everything to make sure that such dangerous weapons don't fall into the hands of terrorists," Ivanov said, adding that the Igla is a highly efficient weapon capable of shooting down a passenger jet, not just helicopters.

With the Russian military plagued by endemic corruption and arms thefts, some media have speculated that the rebels might have bought the weapons from Russian arsenals. Russian officials have denied the allegations.

Wednesday's meeting was of the members of the Collective Security Treaty -- the defense ministers of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Collective Security Treaty was signed in the early 1990s to retain military and security cooperation.

Ivanov said the members of the treaty agreed Wednesday to beef up the forces for Central Asia and make them more mobile but did not give details. He said the defense ministers also agreed to set up a joint military staff of the pact.