Twelve people have been killed and dozens seriously injured in Russia's Chechnya region in an earthquake which shook the Caucasus mountains.

The US Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 5.9, classing it as moderate.

The quake was in the Chechen town of Kurchaloi, about 12 miles southeast of the regional capital Grozny, a ministry spokesman said.

Russian news agencies said the dead included a soldier who was killed when a wall collapsed on him.

The 40-second tremor knocked windows out of a literature institute in Grozny and cracked the facade of the regional administration headquarters. But damage in the town was otherwise minimal.

The quake could also be felt in the Georgian capital nearly 250 km away.