Russia to drop `fuel air' bombs on Grozny

THE RUSSIAN air force may plan to use powerful "vacuum" or fuel- air bombs in Chechnya for the first time in the present war. The bombs explode above ground but exert enough pressure to kill people below ground.

As Russia stepped up its military campaign yesterday, its forces pounded the west of Grozny in what soldiers described as the fiercest shelling yet of the Chechen capital. Artillery crews said it was the first time in the eight-week offensive that they had been ordered to hit Grozny with such force.

A source at the Russian military headquarters in Mozdok told the Interfax agency that the high command planned "to use more powerful, cutting edge weapons and equipment against Chechen rebels."

He did not identify the weapon by name, but said it was a type of incendiary bomb, which had to be carried by aircraft heavier than any used in Chechnya since the start of the war. The bombs would be dropped only in mountainous and deserted territory where guerrillas had built strongholds and ammunition dumps. They would not be used "in the plains or near settlements".

The description makes it likely that the Russian air force intends to use "vacuum" bombs which it deployed during the last war in Chechnya in 1994-96 when they were dropped during the battle for Samashki, a village close to the border. The pressure from the explosion of the bomb can collapsed lungs of people hiding in bunkers thus killing them.

The Russian army has so far been fighting in low hills north of Grozny, the Chechen capital, and in the heavily populated Chechen plain. It has tried to keep its casualties low by advancing behind a heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. These tactics will be more difficult to pursue as the army advances into the Caucasus mountains in southern Chechnya, which may explain the deployment of the new bomb.

The air force also says it is preparing to deploy a new generation of Ka-50 "Black Shark" helicopters suitable for use in the mountains. Since the start of the fighting in Dagestan in August, air force officers say they have lost five helicopters destroyed and 147 damaged, mostly by small arms fire and heavy machine guns.

Despite poor weather conditions yesterday which limited air strikes, Russian long range artillery continued to bombard the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, said to be held by 3,500 guerrillas.

The Russian high command continues to exude confidence saying they were about to take the Chechen town of Argun and that several guerrilla commanders had come over to their side.

In a further sign that the attention of the Russian military is turning to its forthcoming campaign in the Caucasus, intelligence sources said that 30 per cent of the Chechen guerrillas with their equipment had moved into the mountains.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the health of President Boris Yeltsin has once more broken down, forcing him to leave his desk for two weeks, though aides said it was only a cold.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
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
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas