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Chechnya: Fighting Continues As Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

Grozny, August 12 (RFE/RL) -- Fighting continued in Grozny today despite hopes of a breakthrough in the conflict following last night's talks between Russian security chief Aleksandr Lebed and separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Artillery and automatic weapon fire could be heard on the streets, said the RFE/RL correspondent. Itar tass said Russian troops were targeting residential areas. Most of the city remains in rebel hands.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is said to have worsened. Water, food and medicines are in short supply.

In the east of Grozny, thousands of civilians, among them the ill and wounded, are waiting for an escape route to be opened.

Few details of last night's talks between Lebed and Maskhadov have emerged so far.

Separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov told RFE/RL that Lebed did put forward a concrete peace proposal at the meeting held in southern Chechnya.

He said the two men reached 95 percent agreement on Chechnya's future relations with Moscow. However, Udugov did not say whether the proposal contained any new aspects.

An earlier peace agreement broke down shortly after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's reelection in June. Udugov said both that agreement and today's proposal could be used as a basis for renewed negotiations.