Civilians flee besieged Chechen capital
August 11, 1996
Web posted at: 10:35 a.m. EDT (1435 GMT)
GROZNY, Russia (CNN) -- The European Union Sunday called on the Russian army and Chechen rebels to cease fire immediately, but the bloody struggle in the streets of Grozny showed no sign of abating. (Reporter Steve Harrigan describes the fighting - 172K AIFF or WAV sound)
With white flags tied to their cars, residents of the Chechen
capital flooded from the city by the
thousands. In some cases, as many as
eight or nine people were packed into a single, tiny Russian
Separatist rebels claimed they maintained control of the
city, which they entered Tuesday in a surprise attack.
Russian troops battled to break a blockade around the central
government compound where a number of their own troops were
"Groups of rebels in varying numbers are shooting from all
sides and Russian units have virtually no rearguard," a
Russian military spokesman said in a report by the Interfax
The rebel military command told Interfax that several armored
vehicles broke through the blockade Saturday, reaching the compound and pushing the rebels back about 100 yards. The soldiers evacuated a group of civilians trapped in the area. (Reporter Steve Harrigan describes the Chechen frontlines - 253K AIFF or WAV sound)
Battles also continued on the outskirts of the city and
elsewhere in Chechnya. Rebels claimed to have killed 150
Russian troops and destroyed more than 30 armored vehicles in
an ambush in the Kurchaloi region east of Grozny.
Accurate casualty counts have not been forthcoming, however.
Russia reported up to 200 soldiers killed in the six days of
fighting, while the rebels claim to have killed more than
1,000. The separatists say they have lost 29 fighters, but the
Russians say hundreds have died.
The number of civilian casualties was unconfirmed, but the
European Union, in a statement released late Saturday, said
it "deplores in particular the ensuing civilian casualties
and the suffering" caused by the fighting.
"The EU appeals to both sides in the conflict to institute an
immediate cease-fire," said the statement, released through
the Irish government, which currently holds the EU
presidency. "It further calls for a return by the parties to
the negotiating table."
The Grozny battle has proven embarrassing to Russia and
President Boris Yeltsin, who promised during this summer's
election campaign to end the Chechen crisis.
Yeltsin fired his personal representative to Chechnya, and
dispatched national security adviser Alexander Lebed to solve
the crisis. Lebed, Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin met Sunday at the president's country home to
discuss the situation, and Yeltsin instructed Chernomyrdin to
meet with the State Commission on Chechnya to determine why
Russian troops were caught off guard when the rebels
Yeltsin, inaugurated for his second term as Russia's
president Friday, ordered a criminal probe into the
debacle. He has blamed it in part on "gross miscalculations"
by Russian officials and by the pro-Moscow Chechen
Correspondent Steve Harrigan, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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