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Chechnya: Chechen Commander Against Ceasefire But Supports Leadership

Grozny, 16 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The commander of Chechen separatist forces told RFE/RL yesterday he personally is against a ceasefire, which he believes would give Russian forces a chance to restock and rearm. But he said he will respect decisions made by the Chechen separatists' political leadership.

Shamil Basayev said that in the past nine days of fighting, Chechen separatist fighters have destroyed more than 200 Russian armored vehicles, 100 helicopters and 3 airplanes.

The separatists have also captured 3 Russian tanks, 2 armored personnnel carriers, 6 armored cars and 3 anti-aircraft guns, he said. Russian forces have lost 2,300 men, said Basayev, though that figure cannot be confirmed. The Russian command says the number of Russian casualties is much lower.

The separatists decided to storm Grozny nine days ago because their fighters could not engage the Russians in face-to-face combat from the hills around the Chechen capital, said Basayev. At the same time, the separatists were being subjected to deadly Russian air attacks.