Moscow, 15 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman Knut Vollebaek, who is touring the North Caucasus, said today he is willing to meet with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Earlier, Maskhadov had offered to talk to Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu but only on the condition that Vollebaek attended. Vollebaek yesterday met Shoigu in Dagestan and called for a 24-hour ceasefire to allow civilians to get out of Grozny, Chechnya's capital. Moscow rejected the proposal.
A Chechen commander told Associated Press that Russian forces were attacking in the north and southeast of Grozny and he claimed more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed and 18 captured. The Russians say their troops are fighting on the edge of Grozny but give no further details. No independent casualty figures are available.