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Russia won’t let go: but Chechen rebel fighters gets going 

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June 21, 2000   


NAZRAN (AP) - Rebels killed a Russian soldier in an ambush on a checkpoint in the Chechen capital Grozny, while bad weather kept federal jets from bombing rebel targets in the south, officials said Tuesday.


The militants' attack, one of several across Chechnya on Monday night, also wounded two soldiers, Interior Ministry officials said.


Russian troops on Tuesday shelled suspected rebel positions in Chechnya's southern mountains, but rain and fog grounded Russian jets, the officials said.


The Russians have been depending on their overwhelming firepower to battle the rebels, while the rebels have favored hit-and-run attacks.


The two sides appear to be at a standoff, apparently unwilling to risk a major confrontation. Russia controls the northern two-thirds of the republic but rebels have faced little resistance penetrating Russian lines and ambushing federal troops and pro-Russian Chechen officials.


Meanwhile Tuesday, Russia's top spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said Moscow would not reconsider its choice of the Chechen Islamic leader, Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, as the republic's top civilian leader, the Interfax news agency reported.


Kadyrov's appointment, announced June 12, was met with resistance from both Kremlin supporters and rebel leaders in Chechnya. Many  Chechens consider Kadyrov, who fought on the rebels' side during the 1994-96 Chechen war and now cooperates with the Kremlin, a turncoat.


The administrative chiefs of 12 of Chechnya's 18 regions have signed a letter to Putin protesting his appointment.


But Yastrzhembsky told Interfax that there was no reason to reconsider.


"That wouldn't be serious," Yastrzhembsky said. "Kadyrov was just named and hasn't even started working."


Kadyrov went to the northern Chechen town of Gudermes on Tuesday to begin work, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. Russian government offices are in Gudermes, and until now Kadyrov had remained in his home village of Tsentoroi.


Russia lost control of Chechnya after independence fighters expelled Russian forces in 1996. The troops re-entered in September after Islamic militants based there seized several villages in the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan, and after about 300 people died in apartment bombings the government blames on Chechens.


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