Fighting rages on in Chechnya
Situation said to be 'totally out of control'
August 9, 1996
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT (2250 GMT)
GROZNY, Chechnya (CNN) -- Intensive fighting rocked Grozny
Friday on the fourth day of a rebel offensive in the Chechen
In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin said "terrorist raids will
be decisively put down," and declared Saturday a national day
of mourning for the victims of the fighting. But he also
said that "even in this difficult situation, I continue to
insist that there is no other way to settle the conflict in
Chechnya other than the peace negotiations I began on May
Hundreds of heavily armed rebels reportedly controlled the
center of Grozny after Russian reinforcements failed to
retake the battered city.
"The situation is totally out of control," a Russian military
source told the Interfax news agency, which reported that
Chechen rebels had surrounded some 7,000 Russian soldiers.
CNN's Steve Harrigan reported from Grozny that Russian
helicopters were pounding Chechens with missiles
in a furious display of force.
Throughout the day, he said, rebels were engaged in
intense fighting with Russian forces. The Chechen troops had
reportedly surrounded a government compound trapping Russian
Some journalists, trapped in besieged government buildings,
were freed Friday in an operation by Russian special forces,
Russian commanders told Interfax.
Earlier in the day, the trapped journalists had broadcast
desperate calls for help as they sought shelter in a basement
from machine-gun fire and high explosives. The fate of other
civilians trapped with the journalists was not yet known.
Itar-Tass news agency correspondent Sergei Trofimov, one of
those besieged in the government compound, said in a report
that the battle was still raging and there was little sign of
Kremlin said to be divided over conflict
Reports of the latest wave of fighting in Chechnya came
Friday as Yeltsin was being sworn in for a second term.
Aides said Yeltsin would be going on vacation and would hand
over supervision of the situation to his security adviser and
former political rival Alexander Lebed, who has been critical
of Yeltsin's handling of the separatist movement.
The man Yeltsin defeated to win re-election, Communist Party
leader Gennady Zyuganov said the Kremlin is divided over how
to run the Russian operation in Chechnya.
"One group in the Kremlin orders the retreat of the troops
from the city, while the other group is giving orders to
seize the city on the day of the inauguration of the
president," he said.
"From a military stand point, it's a lousy operation; from
the political and moral point of view it is a
continuation of mass murder and lawlessness which any
normal person condemns. I don't see any consistent policy
of peace in the region, at the same time I don't see any
coordination of the law enforcement units which are
responsible for the situation there."
At least 30,000 people have died in the Chechen conflict
since Russian troops were sent to quell the rebellion in the
region in December 1994.
During his campaign, Yeltsin promised to end the war in
Chechnya and met with rebel leaders to discuss a peace
agreement. Peace efforts since have collapsed, with each side
accusing the other of bad faith.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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