The commander of the United Groups of Forces in the North Caucasus, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Moltenskoi denied accusations on Thursday that the military had used pre-meditated strikes against the peaceful population in Chechnya. When talking to journalists, he acknowledged that there had been isolated incidents when peaceful residents had been fired upon. This, according to Moltenskoi, happens when artillery and aviation are used in special operations to eliminate the members of illegal armed bandit formations. Moltenskoi said that no one was covering up these incidents and they were being thoroughly investigated. According to the general, two incidents had been recorded recently and criminal cases opened into both of them. The command was helping to repair the damage caused. "We understand very well that peaceful citizens should not be allowed to suffer," he announced. Moltenskoi also said that Russian forces were mainly involved in special operations to hunt down militants in Chechnya's mountainous regions. As far as the plains were concerned, Moltenskoi said that "no one is conducting any measures whatsoever" and that the situation there was more peaceful and stable.
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