Skies fill with surrender demands

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After almost destroying Grozny's presidential palace before capturing it, the Russians yesterday appeared to change tactics, using aircraft to intimidate rather than to liquidate. Military helicopters flew over the city, broadcasting the message "Lay down your arms. Any further resistance is pointless." The fighting had moved south and south-west after the Chechen forces evacuated the railway station, as well as the palace. No other focus for the fighting has emerged, though a battle appeared to be raging around the Minutka roundabout, south of the palace.

Early on, few aircraft were seen or heard, possibly because of near white-out conditions that made flying dangerous, and the artillery fire was much reduced. Only small-arms fire rattled continually round the city.

It was very different from the crescendo of systematic and increasingly accurate destruction which led to the seizure of the palace on Thursday. People spoke of five ton bombs which scored hits on the palace.Eye-witnesses spoke of Russian helicopters andsearchlights illuminating the concrete skeleton of the building. There was also continuing fire from BM-21 multiple rocket launchers which went on all night.

Rizvan, a member of the Chechen militia,was evacuated on Wednesday night. "The Russians came in the night," he said. It was then the Chechens decided their positions could not be held.