MOSCOW Seven soldiers were killed and another six injured in Russia's Chechen republic on Tuesday when a live tank shell they were loading accidentally exploded, Russian agencies reported.
"While reloading ammunition from a tank into a vehicle, presumably as a result of a detonation, an unintentional explosion occurred," agency Interfax quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman as saying.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov sent an investigative commission to Shali, 25 km (15 miles) southeast of Grozny and the home of the 70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment, to inspect the damage and determine its cause, the spokesman said.
The Kremlin says fighting in Chechnya has ended after waging two wars in the region against separatist rebels since 1994. The past six months have been quiet, though neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan have seen a troubling increase in armed violence.
Russia is trying to create a modern, mobile army of professional soldiers, and the 70th Guards is staffed entirely by contracted troops, though service-wide accidents and suicides still claim up to 3,500 soldiers' lives annually.
(Reporting by Chris Baldwin, editing by Mariam Karouny)