Moscow, 28 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin today awarded the country's highest honor, "The Golden Star of Hero of Russia", to a trio of generals commanding military operations in Chechnya as their troops faced fierce resistance in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Russian forces were bogged down in Grozny's suburbs today as Chechen defenders used minefields and set fire to oil-filled trenches to hamper their enemy's advance.
Deputy Chief of Staff General Valeri Manilov predicted Russia would capture Grozny within 10 days. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said rebels are running out of ammunition.
People fleeing Grozny, where up to 45,000 civilians are trappped, spoke of seeing scores of civilian dead on the routes out.
Fighting was raging outside Grozny as Russian forces came nearer the mountain strongholds of Chechen rebels.
An unnamed Russian military source claimed air raids had destroyed Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's command bunker in southern Chechnya. The report could not be checked. Maskhadov is thought to be in Grozny.