Probe into deaths of 8 servicemen in Chechnya

The military prosecutor's office of the joint grouping of forces in the North Caucasus is conducting a probe into the deaths of eight servicemen in the Chechen district centre of Shali, 50 kilometres south-east of the capital of Chechnya, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said on Friday.

"An operational investigative group has arrived at the scene of the deaths. All evidence is being collected on the site, and criminological measures are being carried out," the spokesman said.

"Investigators have started questioning witnesses from among servicemen," he added.

On the day before, at about 6:30 p.m. Moscow time, in the district centre of Shali, a serviceman of the 70th motorized rifle regiment of Russia's Defense Ministry, while driving a KamAZ vehicle, veered into a minefield. Several mines exploded, killing the driver and seven servicemen who accompanied him and leaving two soldiers injured. They are now in hospital.

According to one of the versions, the accident happened as a result of a spat between servicemen, occasioned by the unauthorized action of one of the commanders.

According to the source in the joint grouping of forces, any movement of army vehicles on the territory of Chechnya is prohibited in the nighttime. But a group of military, ignoring that order, tried in the evening to drive to Khankala - the eastern suburb of Grozny - where the headquarters of the joint grouping is located.

"Not knowing the operational situation, the army men hit a mine obstacle, which led to grave consequences," the source told the agency.

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