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Russian Command Tries To Convince Chechens To Surrender

Moscow, March 21 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian military command in Chechnya says it is holding talks with Chechen separatists in the western town of Samashki -- aimed at convincing them to lay down their arms.

However, Russian defense ministry officials (unnamed) tell our correspondent in Moscow that there is no progress in the talks.

Witnesses said that more than 600 civilians have been killed in the shelling of Samashki in the last few days, but this figure has not been independently confirmed.

Meanwhile, a Russian military spokesman told Interfax news agency that Russian warplanes today have bombed several villages in the Urus Martan area of southwestern Chechnya where they believe Chechen separatist fighters are holed up.

And in the Chechen capital, Grozny, Itar-Tass reports that one Russian soldier was killed and six others were wounded in the last 24 hours.