Moscow, May 23 (RFE/RL) -- Fierce battles between Russian forces and Chechen separatists are continuing around the southwestern Chechen stronghold of Bamut today.
Itar-tass quotes a high-ranking Russian military official as saying
Russian troops "fully control the strategic heights" around the
former Soviet missile base. This report could not be independently
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, on a tour of Siberia, said
today that some 800 separatists are based in Bamut. Grachev said
foreign mercenaries hired by the Chechens are also fighting in Bamut.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Medvedev said today
that Russian President Boris Yeltsin is ready to open talks on a
Chechen settlement with all sides involved in the conflict. Medvedev
said Yeltsin is now studying where such talks could take place.
Yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin confirmed once again that Yeltsin will soon travel to Chechnya. No date has yet