Grozny/Moscow; 13 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - Chechen and Russian
officials today offered contradictory reports about fighting in Chechnya. Emir Abdulwahid, a representative of Chechen commander Shamil
Basayev, told reporters that Chechen forces had retaken a military airport
at the edge of Grozny. Abdulwahid said Russian troops continued to shell Grozny, including areas
set aside for a corridor for refugees.
Russian military officials (unnamed) said they could not confirm or
deny that the Chechens had retaken the airport.
Abdulwahid said Chechen fighters had shot down one Russian jet and
two helicopters over the Argun gorge. Russian officials said the jet
crashed due to a "technical malfunction."
Correspondents on the scene say Russian forces today continued air,
missile and artillery attacks elsewhere in Chechnya, particularly in the
area of Argun.
Russian officials said their forces had surrounded the town of
Shali and were preparing to enter. Chechen officials said their fighters
had abandoned the town on Friday, although groups of fighters could still
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said in Moscow that Russian
troops would stay in Chechnya permanently.