Russian military sources today upped to "more than 70" and even "more than 90" the number of Russian soldiers killed in the devastating Chechen ambush of a Russian military column near Shatoi (see Monitor, April 18). The initial reports had spoken of 53 killed. The operation is being credited to noted field commander Ruslan Gelaev. These are the largest Russian military losses since the Chechens’ brief recapture of most of Grozny six weeks ago.
In the district center Shali, representatives of 26 Chechen parties and public organizations which comprise a Coordination Council yesterday held a second congress. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov addressed the gathering. The resolution of the congress demanded an immediate cease-fire, direct negotiations between Boris Yeltsin and Djohar Dudaev, and the withdrawal of Russian forces. Alongside representatives of political groups, the Council includes several field commanders and Chechnya’s mufti. A pro-independence mass rally followed the congress.
In the heart of lowland territory nominally controlled by Russian forces, a pro-independence mass rally was held yesterday in the district center Naursky while a Chechen detachment held nearby Russian troops at bay.
Tatarstan presidential advisor Rafail Hakimov said in last night’s Izvestiya that his president, Mintimer Shaimiev, may meet with Djohar Dudaev over the weekend. A Chechen-Tatar contact group has been set up following Hakimov’s trip to Chechnya last week. Shaimiev is an mediator acceptable to both Moscow and the Chechen side. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, NTV, Izvestiya, Western agencies, April 18 & 19)
Russian Government to Buy Back Shares in Some Companies.