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Fighting Around Bamut Continues

Moscow, May 24 (RFE/RL) -- Reports from Chechnya today say Russian troops are continuing their assault on the village of Bamut in a bid to drive out separatist fighters allegedly based there.

Russian news agencies quote officials in the military command as saying that separatist fighters are putting up fierce resistance to the west and south of Bamut. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said in Novosibirsk today that Russian forces are expected to wrap up operations in Bamut soon.

Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin's announcement yesterday that he would meet in Moscow with Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev has been met with both skepticism and praise.

The head of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Doku Zavgayev, today questioned what the meeting could achieve. But he said he would support, in his words, "any contacts that help peace."

The heads of about 20 parties that make up Chechnya's separatist opposition today welcomed the planned meeting as "the first step toward ending the war."

Communist Party leader and presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov said today he doubts the meeting can achieve much. But he said his party favors a peaceful settlement of the conflict.