Moscow, April 17 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin said
today that although military operations in Chechnya have been
suspended, the fight against Chechen fighters will continue.
The Itar-Tass news agency quoted Yeltsin as saying that Chechnya is
"a centre of international terrorism." Yeltsin is on a pre-election
trip to the Southern Russian city of Budennovsk, scene of a mass
hostage-taking by Chechen fighters last June.
At a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to the 130 people killed
in the hostage-taking, Yeltsin said current Russian attacks on
Chechen separatist positions are "no war as such, with the use of
warplanes and artillery." And Yeltsin said separatist fighters are
holding only three areas in Southern Chechnya.
But Chechen separatist spokesman Mavladi Udugov told RFE/RL that
"the Russian army controls only the parts of the Chechen territory in
which its units are located."
Udugov said heavy fighting is still taking place, despite the
Russian announcement of the start of its troop withdrawal from the
North of the republic.
Udugov said Russian artillery is pounding Chechen positions near
the Southern villages of Vedeno, Shali, Nozhay-Yurt and Uraus-Martan.
He also said Russian aircraft are continuing attacks on the two
other southern villages, Goyskoye and Bamut.
Meanwhile, interfax news agency quoted the Russian military command
in Chechnya as saying 26 Russian soldiers were killed and 51 others
wounded when their convoy was ambushed by Chechen fighters. Our
Moscow correspondent quotes the Defense Ministry in Moscow as saying
the ambush occurred overnight in the Southern Shatoi district.