AP says seven Russian tanks and eight armored personnel carriers had entered the square from the direction of Khankala, east of Grozny. Reuters reports about 2,000 Chechen fighters attacked with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades during a three-hour battle. The agencies said the event marked the first time Russian tanks were seen in central Grozny since Moscow's disastrous 1994-96 Chechen war that ended with Chechnya winning de facto independence.
But a spokesman for the Russian military command in the North Caucasus, Aleksandr Veklich, this morning denied the western agency reports. He told state-run ORT television that they are "disinformation." He says no Russian armored vehicles entered Grozny.
And in Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry press service "categorically denied" what it terms, "reports about an alleged entry of an armored column into Grozny."
As many as 40,000 civilians are estimated to be hiding in the city. Many are believed to be elderly or ill. Only about 2,500 have left since Moscow established escape corridors after rescinding a threat that residents had until December 11 to leave Grozny or be treated as military targets.
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