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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