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Chechnya: Russian Police Clearing Rebels From Grozny

Grozny, 6 June 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian police and special forces units have begun an operation in the Chechen capital Grozny aimed at flushing an estimated 500 rebels from the city's ruins. Interfax reports the operation includes Interior Ministry troops and special forces who will check residents' internal passports. Reports say Chechen rebels slip out of ruins in Grozny to plant mines on streets and fire rocket-propelled grenades at checkpoints.

The Russian military said yesterday that one soldier was wounded when rebels fired at his checkpoint in Grozny. Meanwhile, a Chechen official says leaders of the breakaway republic are offering a peace proposal.

Ilyas Akhmadov, Chechnya's unrecognized foreign minister, told reporters in Washington yesterday that the separatists want to end what he called "this useless war" with Russia.

The Kremlin's top human rights envoy in Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, says three Council of Europe experts awaiting permission to enter Chechnya will soon receive their visas. ITAR-TASS quoted Kalamanov making the remark today. He was to leave for Chechnya today to check on preparations for the imminent arrival of the experts. He said they will receive their visas sometime between Thursday and Saturday, and will then be able to travel to Chechnya.

Moscow agreed to the experts working with Kalamanov's staff in April, before the body's parliamentary assembly suspended Russia's voting rights for alleged human rights abuses by federal forces in Chechnya. Since then, the date of the arrival has been repeatedly postponed for what the Kremlin has called security reasons.

Kalamanov said the two men and one woman will initially stay for a six-month period, which could be extended if necessary. The team had been told that it would have freedom of movement and access to the local population in order to investigate human rights in the region.