Abandoning the last pretense of a rescue mission, Russian forces carpet-bombed the Dagestani village of Pervomaiskoye with Grad rockets and artillery yesterday, the third consecutive day of their unsuccessful assault on Chechen hostage-takers. From the outset of the operation, the "power" ministries’ goal of killing the Chechen fighters has taken precedence over rescuing their remaining hostages, said to number over 100. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said early this morning that no hostages remained alive. Military and security forces have repeatedly claimed the captors were executing their hostages, only to have those claims disprove by direct or circumstantial evidence. Russian authorities have sought to minimize coverage of the crisis by keeping correspondents kilometers away from the scene, confiscating equipment, and using guard dogs and warning shots on some reporters.
In Chechnya’s capital Grozny yesterday there was no word of the whereabouts of the approximately 30 Russian employees of a power plant apparently kidnapped the preceding day. However, it was reported that some 38 civilians, mostly Russian, had been kidnapped last week in Chechnya’s rebel-controlled Achkhoi-Martan district.
Turkish authorities meanwhile appeared to be coping effectively with the hijackers of the Turkish-owned, Panamanian-registered ferryboat Avrazya, captured January 16 by an armed group thought to number about a dozen Turkish citizens of Caucasus origin. Avrazya was headed this morning for the Bosphorus, where the captors are planning a spectacular destruction of the ship — but not of themselves or the captives– in order to draw attention to Chechnya’s plight. Turkish authorities, in constant communication and negotiation with the captors, informed the public and Russian authorities that the captives — 150 mostly Russian passengers and a Turkish crew — were unharmed. (1)
Communist Moderate Elected Speaker of Duma…