Moscow, July 04: The top Russian health ministry
official working in Chechnya was killed when his vehicle hit a
mine and was ambushed in the separatist republic's capital
Grozny, Russian media reported.
Nikolai Ponomaryov was killed instantly in the explosion
yesterday, as were his two bodyguards, while the driver of the
vehicle was also seriously injured after the car drove over
the mine and into an ambush.
A Chechen police source, quoted by Itar-Tass, described
the killings as an score-settling assassination carried out by
hired attackers in the shelled-out capital, which has been
battered by a 33-month guerrilla war.
Pro-Russian Chechen officials, quoted by Interfax, said
Ponomaryov was seeking to verify how funds from Moscow for the
republic's health system had been spent.
In an apparently related incident, Itar-Tass said an
official responsible for Moscow's reconstruction finances for
Chechnya,Vladimir Trifonov, was hospitalised in Moscow after
being attacked by unidentified assailants in the city.
A finance official quoted by the news agency said the two
operations appeared to have been carefully planned, with both
men linked to "the spending of public funds in Checnya".
Russia's interior ministry had in may opened an internal
enquiry into the diversion of several million dollars
allocated by Moscow for Chechnya's reconstruction, with
several pro-Russian officials there accused of corruption.
Russian troops stormed into Chechnya in October 1999 to
stamp out suspected terrorist bases. Over 4000 Russian
soldiers and tens of thousands of Chechens have been killed in