Scores of civilians were killed yesterday by unprovoked Russian aviation and artillery strikes on the village of Gekhi in western Chechnya and the villages of Makhkati, Vedeno, Elistanji, Kirov-Yurt, and Katuni in southeastern Chechnya, according to refugees, medical personnel, and Russian and Western correspondents. Casualty totals were unavailable because Russian military cordons blocked access to the targeted villages, also preventing the transport of wounded civilians to hospitals. Contrary to the Russian military command’s claims that it was using pinpoint strikes, witnesses reported the use of the inaccurate and destructive Grad and Uragan missiles. The military also concealed its own casualties. Maj. General Nikolai Skripnik, deputy commander of the Russian MVD troops in North Caucasus, and Chechen field commander Doku Makhaev were both killed yesterday outside Gekhi.
Like previous "special operations," this one also proved ineffective as Chechen fighters waited out the bombing and shelling or slipped in and out of the targeted villages. Resistance leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev reportedly had left his Makhkati headquarters even before the start of the military operation, which was officially described as aiming to kill or capture him. Lebed praised Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, his former chief of staff in the 14th Army’s operation against Moldova, and now supreme commander in Chechnya, as an officer who follows orders and who acted correctly in resuming the operations.
…With Kremlin Approval; Democrats Protest Bitterly.