Defense Minister Wants War With Chechen Rebels After Series Of Bomb Attacks, Grachev Calls For End To Talks
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev called Saturday for an end to peace talks in Chechnya and all-out war against rebels in the breakaway republic’s capital, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
“The bandits must be destroyed,” Grachev said after arriving in Geneva, where he is to meet with U.S.. Secretary of Defense William Perry on Sunday.
He spoke a day after a remote-controlled bomb gravely wounded Lt. Gen. Anatoly Romanov, Russia’s top commander in Chechnya.
Long a critic of negotiations, Grachev said Russia should “stop the talks and take any measures to wipe out the gangs that have infiltrated Grozny,” the Chechen capital.
In Grozny, tensions cranked up another notch Saturday with two car bombs, an attack on headquarters for European mediators and another one on a hostel for Russian construction workers.
Four workers at the hostel were shot to death and several others were wounded. No one was injured by the car bombs or in the attack on the headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Reports said someone fired on OSCE headquarters with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, hitting the roof.
“The situation is bad,” said Pelen Olivier, deputy head of OSCE mission to Chechnya told Russian television.
A special medical plane was delivering Romanov, 47, to the top military hospital in Moscow.
The commander was suffering from severe head injuries and other wounds inflicted by a bomb that went off Friday in a Grozny underpass. The blast killed three people and wounded 10.
The OSCE is mediating the talks between Russia and Chechen rebels. Romanov was a key figure in the negotiations.
Chechen officials offered Saturday to help investigate the attack on Romanov and condemned it as a “blatant provocative act” aimed at wrecking the peace process.
Angered by the attack on Romanov, President Boris Yeltsin was considering stern new measures in Chechnya, including a state of emergency, his press secretary Sergei Medvedev said.
News agencies said Chechnya’s Russian-appointed government objected to the state of emergency, as did rebel negotiators.
Relations are already tense between Russian troops and residents of the devastated Chechen capital.
Yeltsin sent troops into Chechnya 10 months ago in a bid to end the southern republic’s three years of self-declared independence. Tens of thousands of people have died in the war.
It was the second assassination attempt in three weeks against a senior Russian official in Chechnya.
An agreement last July that calls for Chechen disarmament and partial Russian withdrawal has foundered. In the latest round of daily clashes that have undermined the pact, two Russian soldiers died and 16 were wounded, the Russian military said Saturday.
News agencies also said a well-known Chechen field commander was killed Saturday when someone attacked his hideout with flame throwers and grenades.
Alaudi Khamzatov, 39, made headlines last month when he and his men took over the police station in the town of Argun.
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