Airport in Grozny `seized by Russians'

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The Independent Online
RUSSIAN TROOPS yesterday seized the civil airport outside Grozny, the Chechen capital, the defence ministry said. "Severny (Northern) airport is fully under control," it said in a report on military activity in the breakaway republic. The Russians also deployed marines to open a front and cut rebel supply routes as other troops fought Chechen guerrillas on the outskirts of Grozny.

The BBC quoted residents of an occupied village as saying Russian troops massacred 41 people. It said it had seen no physical evidence. The Russian Defence Ministry said it had no such information. The BBC correspondent Paul Wood said people in Alkhan-Yurt told him Russian troops rampaged after taking the village this month, looting and killing at random. The reporter "was told ... troops threw grenades into cellars, knowing civilians were sheltering there", the BBC Internet website said. It said several residents, including Malik Saidulayev, a Chechen businessman known as a leader of pro-Russian factions, had given similar accounts.

Russian media quoted officials as saying clashes continued in several districts of Grozny. The Interfax agency said the army was sending in reconnaissance units, which had skirmished with militants.

Rebels near Grozny said that something more serious than Russian reconnaissance had already begun in the city. Russian military sources were quoted as saying operations to seize Grozny would begin this week. (Reuters)