Elite Russianparatroopers began their assault into the Chechen-held mountains May 17 butfailed to take Serzhen-Yurt, Interfax reported May 17. Russian televisionreported that Chechen shells had set ablaze the oil tank farm at Khayan-Kortnear Grozny that had supplied much of the fuel for Russian forces. Despitetheir recent successes in resisting the Russian onslaught, the Chechens areclearly feeling the pressure. On May 17, Chechen military chief AslanMaskhadov called for peace talks. Saying he was now willing to meet RussianDefense Minister Grachev, Maskhadov argued that “such a meeting coulddramatically change the situation and stop the bloodshed.” Moscow has notresponded to his offer. But Moscow television May 17 did report the arrest ofa group of Western and Russian businessmen who, the Russian authorities said,were engaged in money laundering for the Chechens. It said that the sixpeople had been seized as a result of the joint efforts of Scotland Yard, theRussian interior ministry, the American FBI, and the Canadian securityservices.
Putting Pressure On Kiev.