Air raids spur refugee flight from Chechnya

News and Press Release
Originally published
MOSCOW (Aug 1, 1996 10:00 p.m. EDT) -- Refugees fled Chechnya's southern areas Thursday following Russian air raids that killed and wounded dozens of civilians in recent days.

More than 100 Chechen refugees from the southern Vedeno and Chemberloi regions crossed into the neighboring republic of Dagestan to escape Russian air and rocket attacks that have intensified in the last two days, the Interfax news agency said.

Heavy fighting was reported in several Chechen regions, with the Russian military command saying eight soldiers were killed and 19 wounded since mid-day Wednesday. Eleven rebels were killed, the military said.

The 19-month war in Chechnya has left more than 30,000 people dead, most of them civilians. Russian President Boris
Yeltsin promised during his re-election campaign this spring to end the war, but Russian forces stepped up attacks on rebel positions after Yeltsin's July 3 victory.

Elsewhere in Chechnya, the Moscow-installed government said Russian interior troops combing the village of Dolinskoye near the capital Grozny opened fire indiscriminately Thursday, killing two civilians.

Dadar Sultanov of the southeastern village of Karachoi pleaded with authorities in Grozny to persuade the Russians to stop shelling the village of 1,200 people.

"There isn't a single rebel fighter in the village," he said.

Sultanov said two people were wounded and 14 homes were damaged in the Russian machine-gun and artillery attacks that began after an armored truck hit a land mine near the village.

Meanwhile, Nikolai Kovalyov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, said that Chechen rebels are preparing look-alikes of separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, who was reportedly killed in a Russian air strike last April.

Kovalyov's statement followed a wave of fresh claims that Dudayev is alive.

Russian officials said the new claims about Dudayev may be part of a rebel attempt to invalidate cease-fire agreements with Moscow and rally separatist fighters for new attacks.

Kovalyov also charged Chechen guerrilla commander Ruslan Khaikhoroyev of involvement in the murders of two Russian journalists, as well as American relief worker Fred Cuny.

Cuny, 50, of Dallas, disappeared along with a Russian translator and two Russian doctors on April 9, 1995 while on a medical relief mission for the New York-based Soros Foundation.

Kovalyov's statement appeared to be the first time that Russian officials have actually made accusations in the case.

Copyright =A9 1996
Copyright =A9 1996 The Associated Press