Chechens braced for renewed onslaught
Friday 24 December 1999
Some 3,500 civilians had managed to escape along the army's "humanitarian corridors" in the past 24 hours and others had fled over the past few days, NTV said. However, if its earlier estimate that 40,000 civilians were trapped in the city was correct, that left thousands to face an imminent Russian onslaught.
The Interfax news agency said on Tuesday that Russian forces had received orders to move into Grozny. Quoting "anonymous military sources", it said that all the "necessary forces and means" were concentrated around the city and commanders had received "orders to begin the liberation". The Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said the end of the drive to clear "terrorists" from Chechnya was "close" but he declined to be more specific. "I will not give a date, set a time frame or link it to any anniversary or holiday."
The world has been waiting for the Russians to go into Grozny since earlier this month, when the air force dropped leaflets advising civilians to leave the city by 11 December or risk being taken for guerrillas and exterminated. The West protested at this ultimatum and warned Russia that it could face sanctions if it continued to sacrifice civilians in the pursuit of terrorists.
It would be in accordance with tradition if the Russians moved around the time of the Western Christmas, which is not a holiday for them. On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces entered Kabul, starting the disastrous 10-year war in Afghanistan. In addition, from the government's point of view, the opinion of ordinary Russians matters less now that parliamentary elections are over.
However, federal forces insist they do not plan a frontal assault on the city because that would risk soldiers' lives and bring back memories of the humiliating 1994-96 Chechnya war. Rather, they are hoping that Grozny will fall, suburb by suburb, into their hands, after much shelling and aerial bombing. But they admit that at least 2,000 Chechen guerrillas will be waiting for them amid the ruins, and there will be mines and other traps.
Federal forces have advanced around the edges of the city centre for about two weeks. Interfax said that they had taken Severny airport and the suburbs of Khankala and Chernorechie. Now, special units, including snipers and chemical troops, are ready to penetrate the centre. Chemical troops are needed because the Russians fear the Chechens might detonate oil tanks or chemical stores in a city whose main industry is petrochemicals.
Hundreds of civilians have managed to escape along the "humanitarian corridors", although Interfax made no mention of the civilians still trapped inside the city. Earlier this week, NTV showed pathetically disoriented senior citizens from an old people's home being brought out by bus. But more have stayed, lacking transport to the corridors or, in the case of men, fearing that at the Russian checkpoints they would automatically be arrested as "terrorists". The Russians say that the Chechen guerrillas are using the civilians as "human shields".
In this war, information is as powerful as the guns. The Russians were still denying yesterday that their forces had been responsible for atrocities against Chechen civilians in Alkhan-Yurt, despite evidence from an amateur video that showed Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Nikolai Koshman, upbraiding federal officers for the slaughter of 41 civilians. But yesterday, Mr Koshman told NTV only that there was "damage" in Alkhan-Yurt and that there would be an official investigation.
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Nepal earthquake: The race is on to help thousands trapped under rubble around Kathmandu, while remote villages face a long wait for help
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...