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Russian Defence Ministry Offers Talks With Rebels In Sernovodsk

Moscow, March 5 (RFE/RL) - The Russian Defence Ministry has offered to begin peace talks with Chechen rebels in Sernovodsk, about 35 kilometers east of the Chechen capital Grozny.

Russian forces have been attacking the village for several days and it is still unclear today if fighting is continuing there.

Russian defence ministry officials told RFE/RL that if the offer is accepted, the talks will be conducted by Moscow-backed Chechen government officials.

Earlier, the Russian Interior Ministry said five Russian soldiers had been killed and 26 wounded since yesterday in clashes in Sernovodsk. Two women were killed by landmine explosions while trying to escape the fighting. The separatists are also reported to have sustained losses.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

More than 15,000 Sernovodsk residents are estimated to have fled across the nearby border to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.