Russia says 4 police killed, 10 injured in Chechnya

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MOSCOW, Oct 8 (Reuters) Four Russian policemen were killed and 10 wounded when a convoy of vehicles carrying interior ministry servicemen was ambushed in the Chechnya region Russian news agencies reported today.

The column of cars came under fire from unknown gunmen in the mountainous Vedeno district in southern Chechnya yesterday morning, said media reports, quoting Chechen police sources.

The policemen were among reinforcements sent to the area after clashes with rebels on Saturday in which one separatist gunman was killed.

Federal troops have fought two wars against separatists in the tiny Caucasus republic since 1994, but the Kremlin says life there is now returning to normal. However, pro-independence rebels still strike at troops and police from their mountainous hideouts.

Also today Russian media reported that former KGB agent Grigory Rapota will succeed Dmitry Kozak as the Kremlin's special envoy to the south Russia region -- which covers the north Caucasus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month promoted Kozak to deputy Prime Minister in a cabinet reshuffle as well as giving him responsibility for developing the regions.

The focus of violence in the North Caucasus has shifted to Ingushetia over the summer, where the authorities tripled the number of soldiers stationed there. Now a source in the Ingush interior ministry said they had replaced four local deputy ministers and with Russians from St Petersburg and Moscow.

The interior ministry press office declined to comment but the source said the official reason was to strengthen and improve the ministry's work.

REUTERS PD HT1422

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