Moscow, 20 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that one of Moscow's top commanders in Chechnya, Major General Mikhail Malofeyev, has gone missing in the past 24 hours. Malofeyev commands Russia's northern army group, which is now engaged in an assault on Grozny.
The Kremlin says Malofeyev is not on a list of Russians killed or taken prisoner. But Chechen commander Shamil Basayev announced earlier today that separatist fighters in Grozny had captured the general and smuggled him through Russian lines.
The development comes amid a third day of house-to-house fighting in the Chechen capital. Reports suggests the Russian advance on the city center has stalled in the face of fierce resistence.
A pro-Moscow Chechen militia chief, Bislan Gantamirov, claims that Russian soldiers have taken control of Minutka Square. But Russian soldiers at the strategic site say they have merely surrounded the area. Minutka Square controls the major transport routes through Grozny and would offer Russian forces access to the heart of the capital from their positions to the southeast.
In Grozny's northwestern Staropromyslovsky district, an Associate Press correspondent say Russian troops are being held back by Chechen snipers fortified inside nine-storey apartment buildings. Russian tanks and helicopters have been bombarding the apartments throughout the day.