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Russian guards confess to killings

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Two Russian border guards have confessed to killing eight of their comrades on a tour of duty near the breakaway republic of Chechnya, officials say.

Russian officials initially said they suspected Chechen rebels were behind the killings which happened in the republic of Ingushetia, near Chechnya, on Russia's mountainous border with Georgia.

But on Wednesday officials said Privates Nikolai Bozhkov and Oleg Khismatulin had confessed to killing the other members of their detachment.

Alan Doyev, a police spokesman in neighbouring North Ossetia, where the two men were detained, told the Associated Press that the killings had been carried out to avenge bullying.

He said Khismatulin had confessed to killing one guard and Bozhkov said he killed the other seven while they were sleeping.

Doyev said after the rampage, the pair fled to North Ossetia where they traded a Kalashnikov assault rifle for civilian clothes.

"They really got to us," Bozhkov said in police custody in comments carried by Russian NTV television.

"Not all of them though, we felt pity for some," he added after a short pause.

Khismatulin said: "Please forgive me."

Desertions, shootings and murders are not uncommon in the cash-strapped and demoralised Russian armed forces.

Many of the incidents are blamed on vicious bullying of young conscripts by older soldiers, and on alcohol abuse.

NTV reported that Khismatulin and Bozhkov may have been under the influence of drugs when they committed the killings.




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