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AFP: Russians take 5 villages

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  • Norbert Strade
    Russian army invades breakaway Chechnya GROZNY, Russia, Oct 1 (AFP) - Thousands of Russian soldiers backed by tanks swept into Chechnya on Friday as Moscow
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1 1:57 PM
      Russian army invades breakaway Chechnya

      GROZNY, Russia, Oct 1 (AFP) - Thousands of Russian soldiers backed by
      tanks swept into Chechnya on Friday as Moscow announced it no longer
      recognized the rule of President Aslan Maskhadov over the breakaway
      Caucusus republic.

      Russian forces backed by more than 1,000 armored personnel carriers and
      tanks took control of at least five villages some 15 kilometers (nine
      miles) inside Chechnya, the first such drive into the republic since a
      brutal 1994-1996 war that left 80,000 dead.

      Chechen sources said 10 Russian soldiers were killed in the first clash
      between the two sides late Friday.

      A 30-minute battle erupted at around 6:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) near the
      northwesternChechen town of Rubezhnoye, some 10 kilometers (six miles)
      from the
      Russian-Chechen border, said Taus Bagurayev, a regional prefect in the
      local Naursky district.

      Chechens said they suffered no casualties in the clash, while Moscow
      authorities were not immediately available to confirm the report.

      While the invasion forces moved in, Russia said it no longer recognized
      the breakaway Chechen presidency.

      "All other organs of power in Chechnya are, to say the least, only
      partially legitimate, since they were elected outside of the Russian
      law," announced Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

      He said Russia now only recognized the legitimacy of a little-known
      group of former Chechen parliamentarians currently exiled in Moscow.

      Maskhadov replied Friday by calling Putin's remarks "politically

      More than 90,000 Chechens were reported by Russian authorities to have
      fled their separatist state, which has been ravaged by a weeks-old
      bombing campaign that has seen 1,500 sorties by Russian warplanes.

      But Moscow has now fortified that assault with the first mass ground
      invasion of Chechnya since the Russian army got bogged down in the
      1994-1996 war that resulted in de facto independence for the mountainous

      A Russian unit stretching some 80 kilometers (50 miles) across moved
      into Chechnya's northern Naursky and Sholkovsky regions late Thursday,
      Naursky regional prefect Taus Bagurayev told AFP.

      The north of Chechnya is covered in a steppe and is sparsely populated,
      in part explaining why Russian troops progressed so quickly and have met
      no reported resistance.

      "But an armed conflict now appears more likely because the Russians are
      moving closer to the Chechen line of defense," Bagurayev added.

      A separate column briefly crossed from Ingushetia to Chechnya's west and
      was moving towards the town of Bamut about 30 kilometers (18 miles)
      southwest of the capital Grozny before retreating back into Russia,
      Grozny officials told AFP.

      The defense ministry in Moscow refused all day Friday to confirm the
      troop movements. But a Russian officer contacted by AFP on the ground
      said the operation was well under way.

      "We are going to take full control of the Naursky and Sholkovsky regions
      within the next few days, but we will not hurry," the officer,
      originally based in Russia's southern Stavropol region, said.

      Talking tough in Moscow, Putin said that Russia refuses to recognize
      Chechnya's independence and so reserves the right to station its troops
      in any part of the republic as it hunts for suspected Islamic rebels.

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