Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Much of Grozny Lacks Electricity or Heat Fierce Fighting Is Reported Nearby

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Much of Grozny Lacks Electricity or Heat Fierce Fighting Is Reported Nearby

Article excerpt

After nearly a week of intense bombing by Russian warplanes, residents of Grozny, the capital of breakaway Chechnya, rummaged among the ruins Sunday for food and shelter.

Heavy fighting was reported in villages outside Grozny, and Russian jets returned late in the day to bomb the city.

Russia sent up to 40,000 soldiers into the southern republic two weeks ago to quash the Chechens' bid for independence, for fear that it would encourage other regions of Russia to secede.

Chechnya, a mostly Muslim republic of 1.2 million in southern Russia, declared independence in 1991.

In Grozny Sunday, few people were on the streets of the ruined city. Some struggled to unearth belongings from the rubble, others foraged for food and still others, their homes in ruins, sought new shelter.

Chechen leaders say hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting.

Tens of thousands have fled the city of 400,000 since the invasion began.

Much of the capital was without electricity or heat. Telephones worked sporadically. Already short of power, hospitals were running out of medicine and bandages.

Many residents have huddled in basements for days as Russian fighter-bombers and helicopter gunships bombed and strafed the city.

The press service of the Russian government reported fierce clashes Sunday near Argun, nine miles east of Grozny, the Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies said.

More then 1,000 Chechen soldiers were killed in the operation, the government said. The report could not be independently confirmed, and there was no word on Russian casualties.

The Kremlin has sworn to continue its military operation until Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev renounces the republic's declaration of independence.

But the invasion has cost President Boris Yeltsin public support and the backing of many of his pro-reform allies.

Sergei Kovalyov, a Russian human rights activist and lawmaker who spent much of last week in Chechnya, urged Yeltsin to resume peace talks, saying the Chechens were ready for negotiations, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. …

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