On February 23, Chechens commemorated the 1944 mass deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples by the USSR authorities. According to Russian state television, "almost all of the republic’s villages" held rallies demanding Chechnya’s independence and the withdrawal of Russian troops. In Grozny, army and interior troop cordons prevented demonstrations. (10)
Refugees from Novogroznensky confirmed to western correspondents over the weekend that Russian forces had largely destroyed the town, causing many civilian casualties. Russian artillery and aircraft bombed three nearby villages during the weekend, with heaviest damage reported from Tsentoroy. The official information blackout continued to be in effect. Elsewhere in Chechnya, Russian forces reported losing five killed and twelve wounded in combat February 24. (11)
In his annual address to the Federal Assembly, President Boris Yeltsin rejected "demands that the president stop the war or withdraw the troops;" ruled out negotiations with the Dudaev side; and repeated yet again that he would consider a broad range of policy options to be submitted by two, recently created special presidential commissions. (12)
In the wake of the assault on Novogroznensky, the presidents of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan stepped up their criticism of president Boris Yeltsin’s policy in Chechnya. Tatar president Mintimer Shaimiyev said that he had forwarded proposals for a negotiated settlement and "free and honest" elections in Chechnya to Yeltsin, Djohar Dudaev, and Doku Zavgaev. Shaimiyev said that he did not mean to offend Zavgaev, but that the Chechen people know who their more legitimate leader is. Bashkir president Murtaza Rakhimov said that the number of options that Yeltsin claims he will consider is less important than actually ending the war. Rakhimov challenged Yeltsin to "make his plan public at last" as well as to identify "those who are cashing in on the war." (13)
Russia to Expand Officer Training Programs for CIS Countries.