Chechen forces yesterday briefly retook the republic’s second-largest city, Gudermes (30 km/20 miles east of Grozny) after a successful pre-dawn attack by an estimated 600 fighters. Russian reinforcements rushing in from Grozny sealed off Gudermes to interdict Chechen reinforcements, also blocking media access. Army tanks and helicopter gunships shelled Chechen positions in the city from a prudent distance of 5 km (3 miles). Toward the end of the day the tanks moved in to recapture parts of the city. At least 12 Russian soldiers had been officially reported killed by mid-day. The surprise Chechen attack and its initial success appear to highlight yet another Russian intelligence failure. Fighting was also reported from Novogroznensky, Shatoi, and Starye Atagi.
Timed to the first day of the Moscow-ordered elections (scheduled for December 14 through 17), the Chechen operation appears intended to demonstrate that the resistance remains a military factor to be reckoned with. In terms of disrupting the elections, however, such attacks would probably be only marginally relevant since the turnout is in any event expected to be extremely low. Media correspondents in Grozny reported that the only voters who did cast ballots on the first day were those directly linked to the collaborationist administration at a polling station in the government district. The correspondents witnessed pro-independence rallies in snow-bound fields along the Grozny-Gudermes highway as Russian columns were moving to the scene of fighting. (11)
End To Yugoslavia Sanctions Urged.