Chechens say they retake airport near Grozny

SOUTHERN CHECHNYA, Russia, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A representative of Chechen commander Shamil Basayev said on Monday that rebel forces had retaken a military airport on the edge of Grozny, which was briefly held by Russian troops.
Emir Abdulwahid said Russian forces continued to shell the Chechen capital, including areas where they had promised to set up a corridor for refugees to flee. Reuters correspondent Maria Eismont witnessed heavy non-stop shelling and bombing at villages controlling access to the Argun River gorge leading into the rebel-held mountains to the south.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it could not confirm or deny that the Chechen rebels had retaken the Khankala military airport. A spokesman said that, as far he was aware, Russian forces still occupied the airport.
Abdulwahid also said Chechen fighters had shot down one Russian jet and two helicopters over the Argun gorge. Russia has confirmed a jet crashed, but said it was due to a malfunction.

Russia has promised to provide safe exit corridors for tens of thousands of civilians still trapped in Grozny, but so far only a few hundred have been able to flee. Representatives from villages at the mouth of the gorge met Russian commanders earlier on Monday to try to negotiate an end to shelling.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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