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.