Three days after President Boris Yeltsin announced his peace plan for the breakaway region of Chechnya, Russian forces early Wednesday bombed a village whose elders had signed a peace accord with the Russian troops earlier this week.
The Interfax news agency said the four-hour airstrike on Shalazhi, 30 miles southwest of Grozny, the capital, killed two people and wounded 12. Residents fleeing the area told the Reuter news agency that half the village had been destroyed.
Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, the commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, denied ordering the attack, the Russian Tass news agency reported. The airstrike was the second time in a week that Russian planes have hit a village that had signed a peace pact with the Moscow-backed government and Russian troops.
Meanwhile, Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev appeared on Chechen television late Tuesday via an underground transmitter and said he would negotiate with Yeltsin only when all Russian troops have pulled out of Chechnya. On Sunday, Yeltsin ordered a cease-fire and offered to negotiate with Dudayev through intermediaries but said he would not grant rebels’ demands for Chechen independence and that Russian forces would fire back when attacked.
President Mintimer Shaimiyev of Russia’s Tatarstan region, who was inaugurated for a second term Wednesday, told the NTV television network that he is prepared to serve as a mediator in Kremlin negotiations with Dudayev.