Civilians leaving Grozny

Some 800 Grozny residents left the Chechen capital on 11 December and 3,000 passed through checkpoints the following day after Russian officials announced the opening of a second "safe corridor" to enable non-combatants to depart. Russian forces halted their bombardment of Grozny on 11 December, and Russian aircraft dropped leaflets on the city informing the population they could safely leave. The previous day, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev had rejected Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu's claim that Grozny's Chechen defenders were preventing civilians leaving before the 11 December deadline, which had been announced on 6 December. Makhashev said that inhabitants were afraid to venture out of their homes because of the constant Russian bombardment, according to Interfax. Interior Ministry troops commander Colonel General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov told "Krasnaya zvezda" of 11 December that he estimates some 4,000 fighters and 6,000-8,000 civilians remain in Grozny, while Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev estimated the number of civilians at 25,000-30,000, according to Interfax. LF
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