Tbilisi, 17 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin today said that Georgia's air space had been violated but declined to provide any explanation of an incident in which three Russian helicopter gunships were reported by Georgian officials to have dropped anti-personnel mines and fired machine guns and rockets in northern Georgia. It was not immediately clear whether the incident near the border with Chechnya was intentional or accidental. No casualties were reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry refused to comment, but news agencies
quoted military officials as saying that the Russian air force had
destroyed Chechen bases five kilometers from the border with Chechnya.
Georgia's embassy in Moscow said in a note that Tbilisi wanted an
investigation of the incident. Embassy official Ramaz Sichinava quoted the
note as saying that any lack of investigation could suggest "an intentional
move" to pull Georgia into the Chechen conflict.
Meanwhile, the Russian command and Chechen sources said the village
of Bamut had been captured by Russian ground troops. The village was
reported to have been virtually reduced to rubble by weeks of ceaseless
pounding by artillery, tanks, warplanes, rockets, and strike helicopters.
Chechen fighters were said to have pulled out into the surrounding
The Russian military continued air strikes and an artillery barrage
on Grozny and the nearby town of Argun as well as on Serzhen-Yurt in the
southeast and Urus-Martan, Achkoi-Martan and Gekhi in the west.
In a related development, Chechen mufti Akhmad-Khadja Kadyrov
-- implicated in negotiating Russian entry into Gudermes last week and
disavowed by Grozny leaders -- called during a visit to Moscow for peace
talks with Russia.
Kadyrov met with Putin and Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyev and was
to talk to Russian officials about restoration of electricity and gas
supplies to parts of Chechnya under Moscow's control.