Brief Truce Is Chance For Food, Water, Bullets

Even in the darkened basement that shelters 81-year-old Konstantin Kislenko, the thunder of nearby Russian artillery announced Tuesday that there is no cease-fire in Chechnya.

The Kremlin’s call for a 48-hour halt in the Russian offensive starting at 8 a.m. brought a brief, eerie quiet to most sections of this bomb-shattered rebel capital and lured hundreds of underground dwellers into daylight in search of food and water.

But by noon the truce had collapsed. Russian artillery and answering Chechen machine-gun fire sounded from the area around the presidential palace where exhausted defenders were holding off a six-day-old Russian assault.

The unilateral cease-fire, ordered by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, was the first attempted since thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of tanks rolled into this tiny Muslim republic Dec. 11 to try to crush its self-declared independence. It was coupled with an appeal to the few thousand Chechen irregulars to surrender their weapons by Thursday morning.

A Chechen military official told the Russian news agency Interfax that his fighters had no intention of disarming. Instead, they used the brief respite to pour fresh men and arms into the center of Grozny.


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