Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chechens Cling to Grozny as War Rages

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chechens Cling to Grozny as War Rages

Article excerpt

Chechen rebels fought street-by-street with Russian forces for control of the breakaway republic's capital Monday.

Both sides sent in more men as casualties mounted. A few hundred Chechens held on to the presidential palace despite a ferocious pounding by Russian tanks.

After claiming several times that they had taken control of the city, the Russians admitted that the Chechens were putting up stiff resistance and had destroyed dozens of Russian armored vehicles during the three-day assault on Grozny. Charred Russian and Chechen tanks littered Freedom Square near the palace.

The Russian government press center conceded Monday night that things were "very tense" but said Russian commanders had "made the necessary corrections in tactics." The press center said that Russian forces had regrouped and that reinforcements were arriving.

Officials in neighboring Ingushetia said Russian troops "retreated from the center of Grozny," Russian television reported. Chechen fighters also were seen pouring into Grozny from the countryside Monday.

Doctors at the city's only working hospital said they were trying to cope with a constant stream of trucks with dead and wounded, most of them Chechens.

Many Russian casualties were being flown to 80 miles northwest to Mozdok, headquarters for the Russian invasion, journalists there said. Neither side gave casualty figures, although it appeared that hundreds of people had been killed or wounded.

Firefights and rocket exchanges raged around the central railway station and the northern industrial district. Fighter jets streaked overhead, but the gritty, gray haze appeared to stave off more airstrikes.

Chechen Commandant Illesu Arsanykhaev said, "They are bombing without looking. Whatever comes across their path they destroy.cs"

On the edge of Grozny, the Lenin oil refinery was still burning. Much of the devastated city was blanketed in smoke, and the snow was stained black as far as 80 miles away.

The International Red Cross in Geneva said that its two convoys of medical and emergency supplies for Grozny were unable to enter the city because of the heavy fighting. …

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