Grozny, March 14 (RFE/RL)- Russian news agencies say Russian forces in Chechnya today launched
air and artillery attacks on the separatist stronghold of Bamut.
Clashes were also reported in Grozny during an unscheduled visit to
the Chechen capital by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev.
Itar-Tass news agency quotes Shamil Burayev, a regional
administrator in Achkhoi-Martan - a village in southwest Chechnya not
far from Bamut - as saying he heard Russian airstrikes against Bamut
and the neighboring villages of Orekhovo and Stary Achkoi. Burayev
said helicopter gunships were flying over Achkhoi-Martan in the
direction of the three other villages.
The Russian head commander in Chechnya, General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov,
told Itar-Tass that the air raids are n-o-t aimed directly at the
village, but at "Chechen positions surrounding Bamut."
It is not clear how many Chechen fighters are in Bamut today.
Russian officials in the nearby Russian republic of Ingushetia said
all civilians have fled Bamut, fearing that Russian troops may soon
storm the village.
Bamut is a former Soviet missile base and is believed to house the
separatists' main ammunition and weapons depot.
Fighting also flared in Grozny during Grachev's visit. Russian
officials said the visit was aimed at coordinating measures against
separatist attacks like the one last week in Grozny that provoked
some of the heaviest fighting since December 1994. According to
Itar-Tass, Grachev started his unannounced visit yesterday and today
met members of Chechnya's pro-Moscow government.
The agency reports that Chechen separatists fired on Russian troops
from a 16-story building in the central Minutka square, killing two
Russian soldiers and two contruction workers.