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Lebed says Offensive in Chechnya Appropriate, as Fighting Rages

Moscow, July 11 (RFE/RL) -- The Secretary of Russia's Security Council says that Moscow's renewed military action in Chechnya is appropriate.

But Aleksandr Lebed, speaking at a Moscow news conference today, also said that a military solution to the Chechen conflict is "intolerable and inadmissible from any side." Itar-Tass news agency quoted Lebed as saying that if full-scale war in Chechnya resumes, "nobody will be able to stop it."

Lebed spoke as Russian forces continued for the third day their attacks on the villages of Mekheti and Gekhi in southern Chechnya. The attacks are believed to have so far resulted in the deaths of at least 35 civilians and an unknown number of Russian soldiers.

Itar-Tass said senior Chechen separatist commander Doku Makhayev was killed today near Gekhi, along with several civilians trying to flee the village. The report was not independently confirmed.

Interfax news agency said a high-ranking Russian interior ministry official was also killed this morning near Gekhi. Gen. Nikolay Skripnik, deputy commander of interior ministry troops for the North Caucasus military district, reportedly died when his armoured vehicle exploded near the village.

Chechen separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov has said that separatist fighters may launch an offensive in the next few days in response to the latest Russian bombardments.