For the third straight day yesterday Russian forces continued shelling Novogroznensk, recent site of the Chechen general staff, amid reports of civilian casualties. The Russian command banned media correspondents from the town, as it has on previous occasions when attacking Chechen towns and villages which sheltered resistance forces. The command acknowledged unspecified casualties "on both sides" and obliquely admitted that its troops had failed to enter Novogroznensk. According to updated but unconfirmed reports, Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov and prominent field commanders are encircled in Novogroznensk with up to 1,000 Chechen fighters. Elsewhere in Chechnya, three Russian soldiers were killed and ten wounded yesterday. (1)
In an unrelated development which capped elaborate negotiations, Chechen commanders released yesterday the twelve Novosibirsk OMON policemen captured last month in Pervomaiskoye. The twelve were exchanged for eleven Chechen fighters captured by Russian troops in that battle. This exchange completes the release of all hostages and prisoners taken by Salman Raduyev’s detachment in Kyzlar and Pervomaiskoye.
In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin told the visiting German chancellor Helmut Kohl that he would shortly announce a political settlement in Chechnya on the basis of proposals from the two commissions he recently created. In fact, the president and his advisers have preempted recommendations from the commissions and are currently aiming for a quick military solution in advance of the presidential election. In a reversion to familiar "old thinking," Yeltsin complained to Kohl that the German mass media’s coverage of the Chechnya war "is dangerous to the German youth by raising it in an anti-Russian spirit." (2)
Kohl Urges Yeltsin to Keep to Reformist Course.