Russia issues arrest warrants for rebel warlords

RUSSIA'S CONFLICT with rebel Chechnya spread further yesterday as its bombers hit important targets for the sixth day running and arrest warrants were issued for 17 Chechen warlords in connection with the recent apartment explosions in Moscow and two provincial cities.

According to a Defence Ministry spokesman, Russian warplanes in "Operation Whirlwind" were attacking "precise sites" allegedly being used by Islamic insurgents behind the bombings. But the Interfax news agency said that the strikes were hitting oil and power installations, while some 70,000 Chechen civilians have fled to neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Last night President Boris Yeltsin met Igor Sergeyev, the Defence Minister, fuelling renewed speculation that the aerial assault was part of a softening- up process before a land invasion, carried out by the 13,000-odd Russian troops currently stationed around Chechnya's borders. In recent days both Marshal Sergeyev and the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, have pointedly not ruled out a ground war, despite the disastrous precedent of the 1994- 1996 conflict, which humiliated the Russian armed forces and ended in de facto independence for the North Caucasus republic.

Vladimir Rushailo, the Interior Minister, also announced that police had "identified the terrorists" responsible for the apartment bombings. Though he gave no names, Mr Rushailo said that 17 Chechen warlords, whom Moscow believes may have links with Islamic radicals abroad, were being sought by the authorities. Officials quoted by Interfax said Russian jets flew 15 sorties during the night between Monday and Tuesday, hitting an oil refinery, oil storage tanks and an electricity relay station near the Chechen capital Grozny - all intended to deprive the insurgent leaders of revenue from oil and petrol, which they use to purchase weapons to fight the Russians, the officials insist.

Such charges are hotly denied by Aslan Maskhadov, Chechnya's elected president who has vainly attempted to seek a dialogue with Moscow. But in many parts of the lawless republic Mr Maskhadov's writ simply does not run, while in Russia the air war has wide support among a public outraged by the apartment bombings, which killed more than 300. Overwhelmed by up to 60,000 refugees, Chechnya's neighbour Ingushetia has appealed for United Nations aid in coping with the humanitarian crisis thrust upon it. Although that plea was dismissed by Russia, which has sovereign control of Ingushetia, Western anxiety is for the first time becoming visible.

A spokesman for the European Union said the Commission in Brussels was "very worried" about the mounting tension. Indicating the war would be a main topic at forthcoming EU-Russia meetings, he appealed to Russia not to allow the fighting to spread out of control. For its part, Moscow is stepping up pressure to counter the flow of weapons and money from abroad to the Chechen insurgents who are apparently bent on setting up an Islamic state in neighbouring Dagestan, and perhaps even in Chechnya. After Mr Yeltsin demanded "100 per cent guarantees" that men, arms and money would not filter into Chechnya from abroad, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Azerbaijan's ambassador to protest alleged Azeri support for the insurgency in the Caucasus. Earlier, a top Russian defence official claimed that mercenaries from Georgia and Azerbaijan were crossing into Chechnya to aid the rebels.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness