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    263 RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SERVICEMEN KILLED IN CHECHNYA IN 2003

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    MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - 263 servicemen of the Russian defense ministry were killed in Chechnya in 2003, against 463 in 2002, a ministry source told RIA Novosti.

    A total of 971 servicemen died in Russia due to different reasons in 2003.

    The source said the defense ministry controls Chechnya's mountainous part, which occupies one-third of all the republic's territory. There are practically no residents there but there are good conditions for terrorists to hide.

    "There is no active warfare in Chechnya now; the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Main Intelligence Department (GRU) special forces (spetsnaz) act efficiently," the source said.

    By the source's data, the group of the defense ministry in the North Caucasus reduced from 53,000 to 31,000 servicemen. 20,000 out of them are those who permanently stay on Chechen territory and will stay there for a long time.

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