The Russian Foreign Ministry answered that the federal government's battle with separatist rebels in Chechnya is an internal matter. And the ministry called NATO cynical for promoting peace in the breakaway Russian republic after carrying out massive bombing attacks against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the Russian government declined to comment on a report that up to 250 Russian soldiers were killed early today when their unit was surrounded and overrun by Chechen rebels.
Ali Dudarov, deputy interior minister of the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia, said a Russian officer told him about the attack and said it took place near the Chechen town of Urus-Martan.
The reported Russian losses came as federal forces claimed they achieved a major victory by seizing the strategic town of Argun, five km east of the capital Grozny. But Chechen commanders said their forces are still fighting in the area. And the ITAR-TASS news agency quotes Russian military officials as saying there is fierce fighting in Argun.
There are also reports of Chechen civilians being killed today when their convoy came under fire from Russian forces.
An RFE/RL correspondent in Chechnya says it is believed that more than 40 people died after a column of eight cars and a bus were attacked by Russian troops near the village of Goity, five kilometers from the Chechen capital. Seven people who were wounded were reportedly taken to hospital in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.
Russian military authorities have not commented on the report.
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