Amid a continuing information blackout, Russian forces continued in recent days to bomb and shell the towns and villages of Bamut, Samashki, Stary Achkhoy, Orekhovo, and other localities in western Chechnya. They also launched ground attacks against most of these localities. Thousands of residents have fled the towns, some pouring into nearby Ingushetia. Army units have surrounded additional villages in western and southwestern Chechnya and issued ultimatums to their elders to evict resistance units or face destruction.
Civilian casualties are high enough to have shocked the Grozny collaborationist authorities. "Republic head" Doku Zavgaev and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Bugaev, in separate statements made in Moscow and Grozny respectively, appealed to the Russian government and high command to stop the bombardment of civilian settlements; charged that Russian forces were "out of control;" and warned that the number of Djohar Dudaev’s supporters is growing as a result of "the federal forces’ lawless actions." In an apparent effort to continue confusing Western governments and opinion, president Boris Yeltsin’s aides and defense minister Pavel Grachev continued to mention various adjustments to hypothetical peace plans and the Russian intention to eventually withdraw part of the forces from Chechnya even while intensifying the military operations.
In an interview with western correspondents at a secret location in Chechnya, President Djohar Dudaev vowed to continue the resistance and observed that negotiations with Yeltsin were pointless since the Russian president was incapable of delivering on any agreement he might make. (Russian & Western agencies, NTV, March 17 &18)
Europe Speaks with Two Voices on Chechen Conflict.