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James Rodgers in northern Chechnya
"There is a high risk of attack at all times"
 real 28k

Moscow Correspondent Rob Parsons
"The attack shows the impunity with which the rebels can operate"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Top Russians killed in Chechnya
zverev
Sergei Zverev: Filling in for Nikolai Kochman
Two senior Russian government officials have been killed in an attack in Chechnya.



The deputy civilian administrator in the territory, Sergei Zverev and the Moscow-appointed deputy mayor of the capital Grozny, Nusreda Khabuseyeva, died when their car ran over a landmine set by Chechen rebels just outside Grozny.

The mayor of Grozny, Supyan Makhchayev, was injured in the attack - the first in which high-ranking Russian officials have been killed in Chechnya since hostilities in the breakaway republic resumed last October.

And in Volgograd, about 900 km (500 miles) south-west of Moscow, at least one soldier was reported killed and several wounded in an explosion at a Russian military barracks.

Musa Dzhamalkhanov, a spokesman for Russia's temporary administration in Chechnya, said: "It's a tragedy for us. We have a good idea who did this and the criminals will by all means be caught and punished."

'Terrorist act'

Mr Zverev had left Grozny on his way to Urus-Martan, 25 km (15 miles) south-west of the capital late on Tuesday.

He had been filling in for Moscow's representative in Chechnya, Nikolai Kochman, who was away from the republic and has begun urgent investigations into the killings.


russians
Russian soldiers remain targets for hit-and-run strikes by rebels
Mr Kochman's press office immediately denounced what it described as a "terrorist act".

In Volgograd, a mine is reported to have been set off as a platoon of soldiers was marching past.

Russian media said it was not clear who may have been behind the blast, but Russia has become increasingly aware of bomb attacks after a series of blasts rocked the capital Moscow and other towns.

The authorities blamed those attacks on Chechen separatists and the blasts were one reason why Russian forces started a military offensive in the breakaway region.

Russia claims control over most of Chechnya, including its densely-populated northern and central parts where Grozny is situated.

Russians battle rebels

But rebels have vowed to step up hit-and-run attacks, similar to those which forced Russia to retreat after the first Chechen war of 1994-96.


shell
A Russian soldier loads a shell addressed to rebel leader Khattab
Russian troops are continuing to fight rebels in Chechnya's remote southern mountains, in the third day of an operation to crush guerrilla resistance.

Moscow says it has cornered at least 400 rebels in the Nozhai-Yurt and Vedeno districts in eastern and south eastern Chechnya.

They said federal troops were also engaged in an operation against rebels in the village of Samashki, west of Grozny.



The Chechen military forces command the initiative

Rebel leader Khattab
Russia says at least 70 rebels have been killed so far, while the Russian side has lost nine soldiers and over 30 have been wounded.

Chechen rebels said over the weekend that they had killed more than 50 Russian troops in their own "special operation".

Khattab, one of the rebel leaders most sought by Russian forces, told the rebel website Kavkaz.org: "Facts are facts, the Chechen military forces command the initiative and demonstrate the absolute lie of the Kremlin that it is 'in control of Chechnya'."

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See also:

22 May 00 | Europe
Battle for Chechen village
11 May 00 | Europe
Russian convoy hit by rebels
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