Moscow, 16 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia sent troops to southwest Chechnya today, following an overnight attack by rebels in the Urus-Martan district that left at least five dead. The head of the pro-Russia Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, said that a group of 20 rebel fighters exchanged fire last night with soldiers in the village of Shalazhi, killing five civilians and wounding a Russian serviceman.
The Chechen separatist website (kavkaz.org) reports that they have seized several villages in Urus-Martan, but the Russian Defense Ministry denies the claim. It was not possible to obtain independent confirmation.
In another development, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov denounced a meeting yesterday between an envoy of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov and a former high-ranking Russian official in Switzerland.
The envoy, Akhmed Zakaev, said he met yesterday in Zurich with former Russian Security Council head Ivan Rybkin to discuss plans to resolve the conflict in the separatist republic.
The prime minister said he was surprised the meeting took place, calling it "useless" because Rybkin can no longer influence the situation.