Monitor: BOMBARDMENT OF GROZNY

Russian comment on Chechen war developments, including the battle in Grozny's Minukta Square
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Izvestiya

IN THE past few months Chechnya has become one of the principal fields for the election game in Russia. The attitude to the operation has become a kind of litmus test for political blocs. But the game, or rather several different political games, has already gone beyond the control of its principal participants. Some top military officials do not want talks with the Chechens, and do not care about election plans. We do not know what Anatoly Kvashnin, the Chief of General Headquarters, spoke about with General Troshev, who heads the "East" grouping. Events are developing on their own. There are two days left until the parliamentary elections, half a year left until the presidential elections. There is a whole eternity left until the end of the Chechen war. The game lives by itself, eating up the lives of Russian soldiers.

Commersant

POSSIBLY THEY tried to attack Grozny with tanks, like they did during the last Chechen war. The most interesting thing is that Chechens themselves didn't notice this battle. They only informed us about battles in Khankala, but said that the casualties of the Federal troops were about 200. Grozny has to be seized in the West's name. Seizing Grozny and ending the Chechen operation are the only things that can save Russia from sanctions.

Nezavisimaya

Gazeta

INFORMATION ABOUT the storming of Grozny is alarming: there are at least three versions of the events. In this case, what really matters is the lack of true information. If we suppose that the military leadership tried to put pressure on political decision-making, then the events look like a provocation of Chechen rebels. A responsible commander cannot send about two dozen vehicles [into battle] without having real information about the enemy's plans. Either our military relaxed after their successes in Chechnya, or they fell into a trap. There is also some information that this operation could not have been carried out without the consent of the political leadership. There are other more abstract versions. The failure of an operation in Grozny might become a blow against the Russian authorities and the political movements they support. This war can seriously influence the general political situation in the country. We wish to emphasise here that there have not yet been any serious battles in Chechnya, and that any military strategy regarding its mountainous areas is not yet clear. The events in Grozny, which the military do not now deny (only the scale on which they are taking place), cast doubt on their declarations. What is clear is that it is not only "kids" who are left in the capital, and it may be too early to say that Grozny can be captured in just a few days.

St Petersburg Times

THE CHECHEN War is very popular with the Russian electorate and therefore popular with politicians running for office in this Sunday's parliamentary elections and next June's presidential elections. As long as the military appears to be succeeding, Russian politicians are not going to pull the army back because of Western wrist-slapping. What we now see in Russia is the downside of electoral democracy: candidates competing with each other in appealing to nationalist sentiments. Even when Russia was clearly losing the war in 1996, it took Alexander Lebed to negotiate and sell to his government and people an agreement to withdraw from Chechnya. The US should deplore the humanitarian tragedy in Chechnya, but Clinton officials should recognise that this conflict is 200 years old, and that it is one front among many in the struggles between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples. In the long run, Russia cannot win this war, and the US cannot significantly affect the outcome. The sooner statesmen accept this, the sooner peace will come to the North Caucasus.

(Samuel P Huntington)

Sevodnya

WHOM TO believe? On the one hand, the army's actions in this operation were different from the events of 1994-1995, and until now our military has tried to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. So it really looks strange. It is senseless and criminal to send vehicles into the centre of Grozny. On the other hand there is some indirect information that a clash could have taken place in Grozny. According to some press reports, a detachment of Federal troops penetrated Grozny some time ago. There have also been reports that the conflict was the result of the unwillingness of the army to enter into talks with the rebels.

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