Russians push closer to Grozny amid airstrikes

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The Independent Online

Russian forces trained their guns on the Chechen capital Grozny today, shelling the airport and suburbs just north of the city center in an effort to weaken militants believed holed up there.

Russian forces trained their guns on the Chechen capital Grozny today, shelling the airport and suburbs just north of the city center in an effort to weaken militants believed holed up there.

The shelling followed a new push by the Russians toward the city on Monday. Troops and tanks that had been dug in on the Terek Ridge about 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Grozny moved southeast to a major road that runs by the airport and into the city.

Chechen commanders said they believed the Russians wanted to clear out the airport and set up headquarters there in preparation for winter.

"The airport is a very convenient place to stay during the winter. Russians are apparently trying to settle in there ... because they would feel very uncomfortable staying on the Terek Ridge for a long time," said Mumadi Saidayev, chief of staff of the Chechen armed forces.

The airport was a major Russian base during the 1994-96 war. The site would be difficult for the Chechens to hold because it is on flat, open terrain that favors tanks and artillery. The Chechens are using mostly small arms and relying on ambushes against Russian soldiers.

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