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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Resumes Work in Chechen Towns

The United Nations said Monday that it was resuming its humanitarian programs in Chechnya on Monday after a six-week suspension that it had announced to protest the kidnapping of a Russian aid worker.

The United Nations halted its relief operations in Chechnya on July 29, following the kidnapping of Nina Davidovich, the head of Druzhba, a Russian nongovernmental organization that carries out relief work with the United Nations.

"Starting today, we have resumed our operations in full," said Viktoria Zotikova, spokeswoman for the UN office for humanitarian affairs in Moscow. "Talking with people in the North Caucasus, we saw that the needs now are so great that we must resume work."

During the suspension, the United Nations continued its program to provide clean water to residents of Grozny because it was considered too vital to suspend. However, food aid and health care and education programs were halted.

Zotikova said UN officials had held consultations with the Russian government on security issues and re-evaluated and improved its own security efforts. She said the United Nations was reiterating its call for the immediate release of Davidovich and Arjan Erkel, a Dutch employee of aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres who was kidnapped last month in Dagestan. Following Erkel's kidnapping, MSF also suspended its operations in the North Caucasus region around Chechnya -- work that was aimed primarily at assisting refugees from the Chechen conflict.

Zotikova said the UN still had no information on Davidovich's fate.

As the third anniversary of the resumption of the second military campaign in Chechnya nears, servicemen continue to fall daily to small rebel attacks and booby-traps. An official in the Moscow-backed Chechn administration said Monday that at least 10 servicemen had been killed over the past day, in incidents ranging from rebel attacks to mine explosions.

Meanwhile, General Anatoly Kvashnin, the chief of the General Staff, was in Chechnya to inspect troops, hear reports from commanders there and meet with civilian officials, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported. Kvashnin's visit began Sunday and was connected to the recent increase in rebel attacks, the agency said, citing an unnamed source in the military's headquarters in Chechnya.

The Aug. 19 downing of a huge military helicopter by rebels spotlighted the military's continued vulnerability in Chechnya. The military has said 119 out of 147 on board died.

On Monday, forensic experts in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don said they had identified the body of a serviceman who was not on the flight roster. Media had reported that there were as many as 152 people on board the Mi-26 helicopter.

Colonel Vladimir Shcherbakov, head of the military's forensic laboratory in Rostov, said experts had identified the remains of Lieutenant Yevgeny Solovyov.

He said all of those killed who were on the flight roster had been identified, and the body of one other serviceman not on the list remained, bringing the total killed in the crash to 121.

The bodies of seven Chechen residents who had disappeared were found in a common grave, Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said Sunday.

All of the bodies were identified as Chechen residents and all had been missing for several months, he said. They were found in a grave near Goragorsk, 55 kilometers northweast of Grozny.

"A criminal investigation on charges of kidnapping is being conducted by the Chechen prosecutor's office," Fridinsky was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Four of the bodies were identified as members of the same family, the Kariyevs, relatives said. They said that these family members, whose ages ranged from 15 to 50, had been detained May 15 in the village of Pobedinskoye and that the bodies bore signs of torture.