Russia claims part of Grozny as Chechen reinforcements arrive

THE RUSSIAN military claimed yesterday to be advancing into the devastated Chechen capital Grozny, but it still faced stiff resistance from rebel forces holed up in fortified defences.

Propaganda flew back and forth as thick and fast as bullets on the battlefield and it was hard to judge the merits of the claims and counter-claims.

In Grozny, where federal forces launched a ground operation on 25 December, pro-Moscow Chechens claimed to be within two kilometres of the city centre and the barricades of the separatists.

Beslan Gantimirev, a pardoned convict leading the vanguard, said his men now controlled the suburb of Staropromyslovsky, scene of fierce fighting over recent days, and would take the centre by New Year. "I am sure of that because the days of the militants are numbered and there will be no mercy for them," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

But Isa Munayev, one of the rebel leaders, mocked Mr Gantimirev's confidence. Fighters based in the mountains had managed to sneak through the supposedly watertight Russian blockade of Grozny and enter the city to reinforce those defending it, he said. "The true battle still lies ahead."

In Moscow, General Valery Manilov, the first deputy head of the General Staff, took a cautious line. No deadlines were being set because the most important consideration was keeping casualties to a minimum. New Year would see the "backbone" of rebel resistance broken but it could take another two or three months to destroy smaller groups of militants, he conceded.

Ekho Moskvi radio said conditions in Grozny were very difficult for the Russians. "The whole city is a minefield," it said, adding that the rebels had dug trenches and filled them with burning oil.

There were also reports that the Russians had destroyed the command bunker of the Chechen President, Aslan Maskhadov, in bombing raids over the Caucasus Mountains. Mr Maskhadov is the elected President of Chechnya but Moscow has written him off because, it says, he has failed to distance himself from Islamic fundamentalists.

General Manilov himself denied the reports about the bunker of President Maskhadov, whose whereabouts are unknown.

In a glittering ceremony in the Kremlin, President Boris Yeltsin awarded "Hero of Russia" gold stars to three generals, including General Vladimir Shamanov, some of whose soldiers were implicated in recent brutal killings of civilians in the town of Alkhan-Yurt. Apparently referring to Russia's last disastrous war in Chechnya from 1994 to 1996, President Yeltsin said that in the past, "little errors had led to serious mistakes. But now the army's conduct is impeccable".

There were, however, some signs that Russian national unity was beginning to crack. The newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda commented that it was worrying when generals set the political agenda for a country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine