Moscow, March 18 (RFE/RL) - Russian Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev says Moscow will begin withdrawing some troops from
Chechnya next month.
No further details on Grachev's statement, reported by the
Interfax news agency, were available. But the statement was confirmed
today to our correspondent by a senior Russian defense official, who
Outlining the plan to our correspondent, the official said Moscow
next month would start a step-by-step withdrawal of Russian Defense
Ministry forces. The official said Russian Interior Ministry forces
would remain in Chechnya.
The decision to withdraw troops next month is reported to have
been taken last week at the meeting of russia's security council.
But the Defense Ministry official told our correspondent that the
partial withdrawal from Chechnya was part of an overall peaceful
settlement of the Chechen crisis.
Meanwhile intense fighting was reported in western Chechnya today,
with civilian refugees streaming into Ingushetia to escape Russian assaults.
The Vice President of Ingushetia, Boris Agapov, told Interfax that
some 4,000 refugees from the village of Samashki had arrived in the
Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. He said tent villages were
A Russian human rights activist, Andrei Mironov, told our
correspondent he had received a report from a civilian fleeing
Samashki that Russian forces were using at least 11 helicopters to
bomb the village. the woman, who fled last night, said many civilians
remain there. The account could not be confirmed independently.
But Interfax reports that Samashki as well as the villages of
Orekhovo, Bamut, and Stary Achkhoi are under heavy fire today. There
are also reports that Russian troops have surrounded Sernovodsk and
Interfax quotes a Russian military spokesman saying about 450
well-armed and well-trained separatists are in western Chechnya. The
spokesman said that across Chechnya, separatists had attacked
Russian positions at least 24 times since early yesterday, killing 12
and wounding 29 more.
Itar-Tass reports that separatists launched an attack overnight
against federal troops guarding a television and radio transmitter in
the village of Goragorsky, 40 kms northeast of the capital Grozny.
The agency quotes officials of the Moscow-backed Chechen government as saying the attack had been repulsed.