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Russians Attack Village in Chechnya

Grozny, July 10 (RFE/RL) -- Russian guns and warplanes reportedly attacked a Southern Chechen village today, causing civilian casualties.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted local officials as saying at least 20 civilians were killed in the assault on the village of Makhety, located about 35 km south of the Chechen capital Grozny.

There was no independent confirmation of the fighting.

Meanwhile, a Chechen district official in the village of Gekhi told itar-tass that Russian artillery units are continuing their assault on that settlement today. The official (Vakha Eldarkhanov) said half of the village had been destroyed and that at least 15 civilians had been killed and 45 seriously wounded. There has been n-o independent confirmation of those casualty figures. Earlier, interfax reported Russian forces had withdrawn from Gekhi after local officials told the military that all Chechen fighters had left the settlement.

At least eight Russian soldiers and 20 civilians were reported killed in fighting in Gekhi yesterday. The clash appeared to end a shaky six-week truce agreed to last month by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

Russia's Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov will fly to Chechnya today. and Our Moscow correspondent quotes Russian interior ministry officials as saying Kulikov will monitor the situation in Chechnya, where Russian troops have renewed attacks on separatist Chechen positions. Kulikov's visit to Grozny is in advance of a visit by Russia's new Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed.

Interfax news agency today said Lebed plans to visit Chechnya after July 17. The news agency also quoted Lebed's office as saying Lebed blames Yandarbiyev and other separatist leaders for the latest events in Chechnya.