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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Clashes Leave 15 Dead

At least 15 people, including the cousin of the former speaker of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov, have been killed in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya in weekend clashes between government and opposition forces, a spokesman for the opposition said Monday.


The spokesman, Lecha Saligov, said 10 bodies were spotted Monday around the settlement of Tolstoy Yurt, the stronghold of Khasbulatov.


The bodies of those killed had not yet been identified.


The discovery brought the death toll of the Saturday attempt by government forces to take over Tolstoy Yurt to 15, including 5 opposition fighters and civilians, Saligov said. One of the fighters killed, he added, was Khasbulatov's cousin.


Opposition spokesmen earlier said Khasbulatov's supporters had repulsed the attack, but officials in President Dzhokhar Dudayev's administration said the government never intended to take over Khasbulatov's village. and they only"cleared the roads" around it.


Saligov, speaking by telephone from Znamenskoye, the headquarters of one of the main opposition groups supported by the Russian authorities, said Khasbulatov had left Tolstoy Yurt on an important mission which he declined to specify.


Saligov said the opposition was not planning quick retaliation similar to its military responses it has made in the past three weeks since fighting broke out causing several dozen deaths.


"Because of Dudayev's actions, support for him is shrinking in Chechnya," Saligov said in the interview. "We will just wait until he has lost it."


Opposition forces -- including the Provisional Council based in Znamenskoye and the town of Urus Martan, Khasbulatov's supporters in Tolstoy Yurt, and the group of Ruslan Labazanov which was ousted from its base in the town of Argun last week -- have all pledged separately to topple Dudayev.


Dudayev proclaimed the mountainous republic of 1 million people independent from Moscow three years ago after he was popularly elected its first president.