Ambush blow to Yeltsin's hopes

Just as his political fortunes seemed to be rallying, the Chechen war has reared up in the face of Boris Yeltsin with the death of 26 Russian troops in a rebel attack timed to undermine one of the most important fixtures of his election campaign to date.

As the embattled president went wooing voters in the southern Russian city of Budennovsk yesterday - scene of a mass hostage-taking by Chechen separatists last year - news reached Moscow that rebels had laid waste a Russian convoy 30 miles south of Grozny.

According to a Russian military spokesman, 26 servicemen were killed and 51 were wounded in the attack which - no doubt to the further discomfort of the Kremlin - occurred shortly before leaders of the G7 countries, including John Major, gather in Moscow for a heavily-hyped nuclear summit this weekend.

The episode was yet another dent in Russian efforts to convince the international community and domestic voters that the Chechen war is coming to a close, following Mr Yeltsin's announcement on 31 March of an end to major military operations and the his peace plan.

Despite Russian denials, it has become clear that fighting on both sides has continued, including aerial bombing raids by the Russian military on Chechen villages - most recently, Goiskoye.

Details of yesterday's assault were incomplete last night but the Interfax news agency said the Chechens attacked a convoy of 27 lorries, blasting them from close range with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars. All but four were reportedly destroyed.

That the attack was timed to disrupt Mr Yeltsin's early campaigning for June's presidential election is in little doubt, as the Chechens have previously demonstrated that they know precisely how to grab the headlines. Last month, on the eve of an all-important Russian Security Council meeting on a settlement for Chechnya, they stormed into Grozny and held part of the city for three days.

As he campaigned through the city yesterday, Mr Yeltsin made no mention of the ambush. He did, however, have harsh words for the Chechens, accusing the rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev of disrupting all previous peace efforts.

In remarks that will bolster rumours that his hardline military advisers are withholding information from him, the president also made the astonishing claim that "there is no war as such", boasting that two-thirds of Chechnya's districts are free from rebels. However, the "fight against terrorism and banditry"would continue.

Whether many Russians believe this double-speak remains to be seen, but the signs are not promising. During a campaign visit to southern Russia this week, Mr Yeltsin arrived to boos and jeers. And in Budennovsk, many on-lookers said they would not vote for him, despite his repeated promises to end the war.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map