Chechen horrors shame Yeltsin

Rout of army spoils President's big day

Chechen rebels heaped humiliation on President Boris Yeltsin yesterday, trapping his army in Grozny as he promised in an inaugural oath to protect his people and uphold the security of Russia.

After seizing large parts of the Chechen capital, besieging government buildings and pinning down thousands of Russian soldiers, the rebels began to withdraw from the city by nightfall, satisfied that they had ruined Mr Yeltsin's big day.

The inauguration ceremony, the first such event since Tsar Nicholas II's coronation in 1896, was largely overshadowed by the fighting in Chechnya, where rebels caught the Russians flatfooted last Tuesday by storming into Grozny.

Refugees were flooding out of the city last night, as new rebel units moved in. The sky was black with the smoke of burning oil from the refinery outside the city. Russian jets and helicopters circled overhead, and loud explosions could be heard. There were reports that the rebels had seized armoured vehicles from the Russians and were using them to repel fresh attempts to seize back the city.

Last night Russian officials and Chechen leaders were discussing a ceasefire, so that civilians and the wounded could be evacuated. The Russian government, clearly angry at the timing of the offensive, said: "Bandits armed to the teeth are robbing and killing peaceful civilians, continuing the genocide against their own people."

Russian commanders in Chechnya have sought to crush the rebels with months and months of air and artillery strikes, but the rebel leaders remain confident that they can continue a "hit-and-run" guerrilla war indefinitely. Even the reported death in April of their president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, has failed to break their nerve or disrupt their unity.

Rebel commanders said they intended to pull out of the city and return to their mountain strongholds during the weekend, having successfully exposed Russia's weakness at the moment of the inauguration.

Last June, the President agreed a truce with the Chechen leadership that was supposed to lead to the phased withdrawal of Russian forces starting next month. However, the fighting resumed almost as soon as Mr Yeltsin won re-election, and the rebels accuse him of arranging the truce purely to improve his poll prospects.

The frail President, attending a public ceremony for the first time since the election on 3 July, spoke slowly and moved stiffly as he was sworn in for a four-year term that many Russians doubt he will complete. Said by one of his closest aides to be suffering from "colossal weariness", he stood on the flag- and flower- bedecked stage of the Kremlin palace for 16 minutes as he took his oath and was blessed by Alexiy II, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

His lacklustre appearance left unanswered many questions about his ability to govern Russia and to implement the programme of political and economic reform on which he won re-election. However, guests who attended a Kremlin banquet afterwards said he had looked in better shape and had given a speech longer than the oath of office, which he took 45 seconds to pronounce. One Western guest said. "He made a toast and gave a speech. Then he had a few glasses of champagne and he actually looked fairly sprightly when he walked out."

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum