| REFUGEES CONTINUE TO LEAVE CHECHNYA
The refugee flow from Chechnya to neighboring Ingushetia has
topped 133,000, but supplies still are lacking, according to
the territory's leader.
Civilians are filling the brunt of the Russian military campaign, laments Maskhadov
Ingushetia President Ruslan Aushev said Friday that 14,000
refugees had arrived during the previous 24 hours, the
biggest one-day total so far.
"We have an acute shortage of food, baby food, warm clothes,
blankets, and even more important -- tents, trailers and
stoves," he told the Interfax news agency. "If the situation
does not change, people will have to spend the winter out in
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said
Friday that Moscow had the right to deploy its forces in
Chechnya or wherever else it wanted on its own territory.
"Chechnya is the territory of the Russian Federation and the
armed forces have the right to be deployed wherever they want
on the territory of their own country," Putin told reporters
during a summit of ex-Soviet states in the Ukrainian resort
Putin was defending Russia's decision to send ground troops
into Chechnya after weeks of air strikes. The campaign is
aimed at Islamic militants blamed for invading neighboring
Dagestan twice this summer.
Russian leaders also blame the militants for a series of
apartment explosions that killed some 300 people in Russia in
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov urged Moscow on Friday to
find a peaceful way to end the conflict.
Referring to Chechnya's 1994-96 war with Russia, Maskhadov
said another full-fledged war would again result "in Russia's
shame and defeat." He criticized Russia for refusing to hold
peace negotiations and for calling his government
Russian military officials say their planes and artillery continued to pound Chechen, targets
"Russia has launched a full-scale war against Chechnya,
breaking the peace treaty signed by the Chechen and Russian
presidents," Maskhadov said in comments published Friday in
the newspaper Kommersant. "In this situation I had no other
choice but to declare war."
Eight Russian soldiers were killed Friday as Russian planes
and artillery continued to pound Chechen targets on several
fronts, the military said.
Officials said four soldiers were killed inside Chechnya and
four died in neighboring Dagestan.
Maskhadov said a total of 20 Chechen fighters and about 100
Russian soldiers have been killed. The Russians have provided
much lower casualty figures for their own troops.
Maskhadov said civilians are bearing the brunt of the Russian
military campaign, with a total of 450 civilians killed in
Chechnya in the past two weeks.
Chechen officials said that in one of the more gruesome
episodes of the conflict, a bus carrying refugees was hit by
a Russian tank round Tuesday, killing 41 people.
Maskhadov is a former Soviet army officer who helped lead the
rebels in the war with Russia three years ago. The fighting
ended with a peace agreement that gave Chechnya effective
Maskhadov then won an overwhelming victory in a 1997
election. The election was declared fair by international
monitors. Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent his
congratulations, and Russia said it wanted to rebuild
relations with Chechnya.
But Russia refused to recognize Chechnya's claim of
independence. Russian leaders now describe Maskhadov's
government as unlawful, and are trying to build support for a
parliament made up of Chechens in exile.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.