The Russian military will cut its deployment in Chechnya by about 1,000 troops and stop using conscripts in the war against separatist rebels next year, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday.
The announcement, however, did not appear to indicate that Russia believes it is gaining an advantage over the guerrillas it has been battling for more than five years. Ivanov said the 42nd Motorized Division that is the military's main unit in Chechnya "will stay there forever."
Ivanov, who made the statements during an inspection trip in Rostov-on-Don, headquarters for the military's southern region, did not give an overall figure for the troop presence in Chechnya.
But Russian officials this year said there were about 70,000 armed forces in Chechnya, including from the army, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet KGB. In addition, Chechnya has a large presidential security service that conducts operations against rebels and is widely alleged to abduct and abuse civilians.