In the bleak ruins of Grozny a woman walks in search of peace

A refugee who fled recent fighting in the Chechen capital returns to see if her home was still standing. Hopes of a settlement seemed as elusive as ever yesterday when Alexander Lebed, Russia's peace- maker, was left in the lurch again by Boris Yeltsin. The President went on holiday rather than discuss rebel proposals for a lasting deal. Mr Yeltsin left Moscow for his country residence even though Mr Lebed, his envoy, hoped to discuss Chechen terms over the key issue of the republic's status. Mr Yeltsin is keeping Mr Lebed at arm's length, possibly to pressure the Chechens but also because their relationship has cooled.

Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuter