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Russia: Chechen Fighters Withdraw From Village

Southern Chechnya, 4 January (RFE/RL) - A Chechen spokesman said today that rebel fighters have pulled out of a strategically important village outside the capital city of Grozny that they took from Russian troops Sunday night. Chechen official Movladi Udugov told Echo Moscow radio that rebels destroyed the field headquarters of the Russian commander of the western front during the raid at Alkhan-Kala. The settlement southwest of Grozny has been used by refugees and rebels to get in and out of the besieged capital. The Russian Defense Ministry Press Office was closed for a public holiday today and could not be reached for comment on the claim.

Meanwhile, Russian news agencies report that the federal troops are facing "stiff resistance" at all fronts in the breakaway republic. In Grozny, the battle was said to have centered on the area near the railroad station. But there were also reports of "fierce" fighting in sectors of the capital that Russian commanders had claimed some days ago as having taken under control.