VLADIKAVKAZ - Rebel attacks and landmines killed eight Russian soldiers in Chehcnya over the past day and wounded 13 others, officials said, underlining Russian forces' inability to control the insurgents as the war slogs through its third winter.
Although wide-scale rebel actions disintegrated in the spring of 2000, the guerrillas have have since then launched near-daily small attacks that kill, wound and demoralize the Russian forces.
Rebels shelled Russian outposts 13 times over the last 24 hours, killing three and wounding four servicemen, said an official with the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, on condition of anonymity.
In the capital, Grozny, one soldier died Wednesday when he stepped on a rebel mine, and another one was wounded by shrapnel, the official said. Also Wednesday, a Russian sapper was killed in the city of Gudermes while trying to defuse a rebel mine.
The Interfax news agency quoted the Grozny military commandant's office as saying that another soldier was killed in the city early Wednesday when rebels fired on a federal patrol.
On Tuesday, a Russian soldier died and six others were wounded when a military convoy came under shelling near the southern village of Serzhen-Yurt, and one serviceman was killed and another wounded in a rebel ambush near the eastern city of Argun.
In recent days, Argun has been the target of a massive "mopping-up" operation by Russian troops who have rounded up over 300 local residents to check on possible links to rebels. All but five of the detained have returned home, said deputy local administrator Saidkhamzat Dudayev.
Dudayev also said that Russian troops had killed 12 rebels during the operation in Argun, the Interfax said.
Along with security raids like the one in Argun, the Russian forces on Wednesday continued to use helicopter gunships and heavy artillery against the insurgents. The Interfax-Military News Agency quoted military officials in Chechnya as saying that federal troops killed 17 rebels on Wednesday.
Russian troops left Chechnya in 1996 after being defeated in a 20-month war with separatists, but returned in September 1999 after Chechnya-based rebels made incursions into neighboring Dagestan and after a series of apartment bombings blamed on the rebels that killed some 300 people in three cities.