Chechnya on brink

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The Independent Online
GROZNY - Fears of a Caucasus war increased yesterday as planes struck targets in Chechnya. Russia sealed off the rebel region's borders and airspace.

The leader of the Moscow-backed rebels fighting to topple Dzhokhar Dudayev, the mainly Muslim region's president, said he would order his men to advance if Moscow did not act. "We will take upon our shoulders the burden . . . if the Russians do not enter," opposition leader Umar Avturkhanov said at his headquarters 55 miles north of Grozny, the Chechen capital.

Yesterday, after a high-altitude bomber made four passes over Grozny, thick black smoke rose from a military base south-east of the city. Low-flying jets later fired a missile which hit an apartment block near the centre. However, there were no reports of casualties. - Reuter

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