Outside Shalazhi, Russia, April 3 (RFE/RL) - Russian forces are
reported to have launched air strikes today against a village in
Eeyewitnesses say bombs crashed into houses in the village of Shalazhi, about 50 km southwest of the regional capital, Grozny.
One witness, fleeing the area, said about 20 houses had been
destroyed. Dozens of people are said to have been injured.
The report came despite statements by Russian commanders in
Chechnya that they are observing a unilateral ceasefire which was
supposed to have come into effect at midnight on Sunday.
Our correspondent quotes the Russian air force command as denying
the report of air raids in Shalazhi.
In other developments, Russian defence ministry officials (unnamed)
told our correspondent that fighting was continuing in
southeast Chechnya, near the mountain rebel strongholds of Benoi and
Kurchaloi. There are no reports of casualties.
The Russian command says Chechen fighters attacked Russian
troops near the village of Orekhovo, in southwest Chechnya. Last
Monday Russian troops took control of the village, but last night
Chechens tried to regain it.
Russian Defence Minister Pavel Grachev said today that
Russian troops are observing a ceasefire ordered last Sunday by
President Boris Yeltsin. Grachev said the troops will respond to
Grachev also said that Russian troops withdrawal would begin at the
end of April, but two Russian brigades would be deployed in Northern
outskirts of Grozny and in the village of Shali, 40 km Southeast of
Separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev has rejected the
recent Yeltsin peace initiative.
Speaking on Chechen television last night, Dudayev reiterated his
position, saying peace talks could not go ahead until every last
russian soldier had been withdrawn form Chechnya.