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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Interior Troops to Fill Caucasus Ranks With Chechens

The Interior Troops will train hundreds of servicemen to fight in mountainous terrain, restructure its operational command in the North Caucasus and form two new battalions staffed with Chechnya natives to improve its capability to operate there, a senior commander told reporters on Thursday.

Colonel General Nikolai Rogozhkin said the Interior Troops' structure in the North Caucasus would undergo "significant changes in compliance with the missions that the forces will be fulfilling in the Chechen republic."

Rogozhkin did not elaborate on what those changes might be. The Interior Troops are part of the Interior Ministry, which has the lead role in the so-called anti-terrorist operation under way in the North Caucasus. Senior Interior Troops officers command the special task forces set up in each North Caucasus republic to coordinate security forces' and emergency services' response to attacks.

Rogozhkin said the number of Interior Troops in Chechnya would not be scaled back, at least until mid-2006, and confirmed that a full brigade would be permanently stationed in Chechnya. Two commando battalions -- a North battalion based in the Groznensky district and a South battalion based in the Vedensky district -- would also be formed and deployed, Rogozhkin said.

Like the Defense Ministry's elite East and West battalions, which have been operating in Chechnya as part of the Army's North Caucasus group for more than a year, the two units will be manned with natives of Chechnya. The East and West battalions have reported success in seeking and destroying rebel groups in the mountains, but their servicemen have also gained notoriety for their harsh treatment of civilians.

The Interior Troops also will train 1,500 servicemen to operate in mountainous terrain, Rogozhkin said.