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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army Gives Ultimatum To Chechen Stronghold

SAMASHKI, Chechnya -- Russian troops have ordered Chechen rebels in their western stronghold of Samashki to surrender by Friday morning or face an all-out artillery attack, residents said Thursday.

To the east, fighting resumed in the suburbs of the Chechen capital Grozny, Interfax said, quoting a Russian military source. Russian forces shelled rebel positions in the suburbs of Novye Aldy and Chernorechiye in the south and southeast of the badly-damaged city, the source said.

Sniper fire continued in Grozny, now largely in Russian hands after a 12-week campaign to crush an independence drive.

Interfax quoted a Chechen source as saying two people were killed and 11 wounded by Russian air strikes on the town of Shali, a rebel stronghold south of the capital.

Samashki, a prosperous village some 40 kilometers west of the capital Grozny is among the remaining separatist strongholds that Russian forces have targeted since the fall of Grozny.

"A helicopter appeared yesterday around 11 a.m. over the village and they shouted through loudhailers both in Russian and Chechen that we had two days to surrender," said Musa, a rebel guard on duty outside the village.

"They said they will shell Samashki unless the fighters lay down their arms."

Russian Interior Ministry troops at a post a few kilometers outside the village said they knew nothing about the ultimatum or any planned attack.

"It's none of our business," said one soldier, who refused to give his name. "We are not involved in the warfare, it's the army's job."

A line of Russian tanks could be clearly seen on the mountain slope some two kilometers outside the village, their barrels turned towards Samashki.

A tiny gas refining station on the northern edge of the village was in flames. The rebels said it was hit Wednesday by Russian planes.

Russian troops shelled Samashki last month and failed in an attempt to take it. There was no sign of destruction in the village center.

Three loud explosions rocked a rebel post on the fringes of the village the moment correspondents reached it.

No signs of a bomb explosion could be seen, but the rebel guards were quick to blame the Russians.

The Russian Interior Ministry troops said the blast came from one of the landmines planted by the rebels.