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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Engineers / Senior Electronics Engineers

£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project