Against all odds, outnumbered and outgunned Chechen fighters continued Sunday to offer fierce resistance to Russian forces here, beating back an assault on the presidential palace and engaging in close-quarters combat in the center of the capital.
As the battle for Grozny raged on, with Russian planes reportedly carrying out more than a dozen airstrikes in the capital, a Chechen official announced that the son of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev had died in combat here last week. The head of Chechnya’s Council of Elders, Said-Akhmed Adizov, said Ovlur Dudayev had been buried Friday at an undisclosed location.
Chechen fighters, who have demonstrated extraordinary tenacity during the five-week siege of Grozny, said they had repelled a Russian attack on the palace, inflicting heavy losses on the Russians. The fires that had burned in the palace Saturday night had been extinguished Sunday, though the palace continued to be shelled by Russian artillery and tanks.
“The Russians are storming the center of the city in wave after wave, and they are being slaughtered,” rebel fighter Sayed Bemin said.
Another fighter, Akhmed Kadivo, returning from a nightlong battle near the presidential palace, said: “There was fighting all night in some of the buildings on the square. Room by room, we fought the Russians. We captured about 30 prisoners. There were Russian marines fighting in some of the buildings.”
As Russian artillery shelled the city Sunday, numerous buildings continued to burn in the center of town. A shell landed in a residential area of southern Grozny on Sunday morning, killing five.
But compared with the intense and widespread shelling of the last several days, Sunday’s fighting was relatively light, at least in regions some distance from the palace.
Chechen fighters moved freely around the southern and southcentral sections of the city as they headed toward fighting on the central square. Refugees straggled out of town, most heading to the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.
Russian soldiers and officers seemed surprised and impressed with the stubborn resistance of the Chechens, who are seeking independence from Moscow.