As predicted, last week’s appointment of Lt. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov to the command of Russia’s combined forces in Chechnya has ushered in an escalation of offensive operations. The Russian command reported that its troops killed 67 Chechen fighters in attacks January 5 and 6 on key Chechen strongholds in Achkhoi-Martan district and in Shatoi and Bamut villages. Three Russian soldiers were killed and 8 wounded. The Russian military threatened to storm Vedeno, home of commander Shamil Basayev and related families, calling upon its population to rise against local Chechen detachments "in order to escape the fate of Gudermes." Additional Russian units from the 8th Army were reported moving into Chechnya from Volgograd. Tikhomirov and Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev promised to step up offensive operations. Tikhomirov ruled out any resumption of negotiations with Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov, whom he called a "bandit."
In Moscow, in an appeal published in Izvestiya, more than 100 representatives of the intelligentsia urged president Boris Yeltsin to use his power to prevent another escalation of the war. "Another escalation . . . would remove the last hope of a peaceful settlement. The senselessness and unpopularity of this war are obvious to everyone," they said. Warning that after Grozny and Gudermes, "Chechnya’s third and fourth largest towns have now been targeted," the appeal said the use of military force against Chechnya was "hopeless" and "a wild anachronism." Signatories included politicians Yegor Gaidar and Arkady Volsky; writers Vladimir Voinovich, Bulat Okudzhava, Fazil Iskander, and Yevgeny Rein; actors and directors Rolan Bykov, Zinovy Gerdt, Aleksandr Shirvindt, Eldar Ryazanov, and Leonid Kheifets; and artists David Borovsky and Boris Messer.
A group of newly elected Duma deputies headed by Konstantin Borovoi confirmed plans to fly to Chechnya to promote a peaceful settlement. The group will hold talks with Dzhokhar Dudayev in his capacity as president, with "republic head" Doku Zavgayev as a private individual, and with the Russian military command. (13).
Trouble In Dagestan.