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Chechnya: Russians Claim 18 Rebels Killed In Ambush

Nazran, Russia; 4 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - The Russian military command says special forces troops have ambushed a column of Chechen rebels outside the capital Grozny, killing at least 18 of them. The command said the Russians opened fire with machine guns and then called-up artillery strikes in the ambush, which occurred yesterday near the southern village of Avtury.

Casualty figures were impossible to confirm independently.

Associated Press reports the ambush could signal a change in Russian tactics, in that Russian forces in Chechnya have recently suffered losses themselves in several similar rebel ambushes.

Meanwhile, rebels kept up their pressure on Russian checkpoints, attacking three times in Grozny. Interfax reported no Russian troops were killed.

The rebels also claim to have killed 12 government soldiers and destroyed three military vehicles in attacks in the areas of Urus-Martan, Shelkovskaya and Shatoi. The Russians deny losses.