Grozny, 16 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western agencies are reporting
more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in an overnight failed attempt
to seize the Chechen capital of Grozny. The Reuters and Associated Press
(AP) agencies say the dead troops were lying near the burning remains of
several Russian military vehicles in Minutka Square, some 3 kms from the
AP says seven Russian tanks and eight armored personnel
carriers had entered the square from the direction of Khankala, east of
Grozny. Reuters reports about 2,000 Chechen fighters attacked with rifles
and rocket-propelled grenades during a three-hour battle. The agencies said
the event marked the first time Russian tanks were seen in central Grozny
since Moscow's disastrous 1994-96 Chechen war that ended with Chechnya
winning de facto independence.
But a spokesman for the Russian military command in the North
Caucasus, Aleksandr Veklich, this morning denied the western agency
reports. He told state-run ORT television that they are "disinformation."
He says no Russian armored vehicles entered Grozny.
And in Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry press service
"categorically denied" what it terms, "reports about an alleged entry of an
armored column into Grozny."
As many as 40,000 civilians are estimated to be hiding in the city.
Many are believed to be elderly or ill. Only about 2,500 have left since
Moscow established escape corridors after rescinding a threat that
residents had until December 11 to leave Grozny or be treated as military