Russia claims rout of rebels in mountain area, but fighting continues

A Russian commander claimed Friday that a major group of Chechen rebels was routed in fierce fighting in the republic's mountains, while Russian jets intensely bombed Komsomolskoye to try to drive out rebels who seized the village.

A Russian commander claimed Friday that a major group of Chechen rebels was routed in fierce fighting in the republic's mountains, while Russian jets intensely bombed Komsomolskoye to try to drive out rebels who seized the village.

Lt. Gen. Gennady Troshev, a top commander for Chechnya, said a rebel grouping of about 2,500 fighters was defeated after battles around the village of Ulus-Kert, where fighting had raged for about two weeks.

He said the rebels were under the leadership of two of Chechnya's most notorious warlords, Shamil Basayev and Khattab, who uses one name only.

"Bands of small number still remain, but the so-called armed forces (of rebels) do not exist any more," he said, according to the news agency ITAR-Tass. But small rebel groups have been able to mount costly hit-and-run attacks on Russian forces.

The rebels who seized Komsomolskoye on Sunday, embarrassing Russian forces who claimed to have the rebels blocked, have reportedly broken into small formations under a relentless Russian assault that has left the village in ruins.

But despite repeated statements that Komsomolskoye was about to fall, the small rebel groups have stalled the Russians with fierce resistance.

Under a sunny spring sky, tanks and howitzers in nearby fields fired salvo after salvo into Komsomolskoye, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, to prevent rebels from breaking out.

Russian commanders said the rebels were concentrated in a southern part of Komsomolskoye. But soldiers who were searching house-to-house for militants Friday said rebel resistance was still intense. They said at least 11 Russian troops had been killed in this week's fighting.

The battle for Komsomolskoye, which began when Chechens seized the village Sunday, underlines Russia's inability to rout Chechnya's militants after six months of war, even though Russian troops outnumber them and have superior weapons.

After keeping some 1,000 residents of Komsomolskoye herded in a field on the outskirts of the village during three days of round-the-clock shelling, the military Friday permitted the civilians to go north to the town of Urus-Martan.

Almost all the houses in Komsomolskoye have been razed or destroyed. Some have been hit in the Russian air and artillery assault; others looked intact from the outside, but were actually burned out. Residents claim Russian troops looted the homes then torched them to cover up their crime.

Russian forces control most of Chechnya, and have focused their offensive in the southern mountains since thousands of rebels abandoned Grozny last month.

Commanders want to block rebels from launching attacks in Russian-held flatland areas. Such attacks have already caused heavy Russian losses, including an ambush in Grozny that killed 20 Russian troops last week.

An estimated 200-300 rebels are still in Grozny even after more than a month of Russian occupation, according to Valery Manilov, deputy head of the armed forces General Staff.

Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and other commanders admitted Friday that a rebel ambush in Ulus-Kert last week killed at least 85 paratroopers. Russian officials initially denied such a raid had occurred.

Accounts of the attack released Friday varied. Sergeyev told reporters the paratroopers were killed overnight Feb. 29-March 1. Deputy commander of the paratroop force, Nikolai Staskov, said they were killed over four days, from Feb. 29 to March 3, according to Interfax.

Overall, 1,556 Russian troops have been killed since the ground operation in Chechnya began, Manilov said Friday. Soldiers, rights groups and rebels say the real death toll is higher.

Russia began its ground campaign in Chechnya in September to fight Islamic rebels who attacked the neighboring republic of Dagestan in August.

In Moscow, a delegation from the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe prepared to travel to Chechnya on Saturday to investigate complaints of human rights violations in Russia's military campaign.

The nine-member delegation met Friday with parliamentary leaders and the emergencies minister, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders