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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cease-Fire Presaged By Fighting, Division

Combined Reports

New hostilities were reported Thursday in Chechnya just two days before a cease-fire is to take effect, casting further doubt on President Boris Yeltsin's claim that the war is over.

The tenability of a cease-fire agreement between Yeltsin and Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was further called into question Thursday, when both the head of the Kremlin-backed Chechen government and a prominent Chechen rebel field commander criticized Yandarbiyev.

Rebel forces shot down a Russian military helicopter near the village of Gordali, about 50 kilometers south of the Chechen capital Grozny, Itar-Tass reported. At least eight Russian servicemen were burned and at least one other died as a result of the attack, which occurred Wednesday during takeoff, the news agency said.

Chechen separatists fired on Russian forces about a dozen times overnight, injuring several Russian servicemen. Itar-Tass said federal forces were observing an order issued Wednesday not to use arms and took no action against the rebels.

Yeltsin and Yandarbiyev agreed Monday during a Kremlin meeting that a cease-fire would take effect starting Saturday.

"Peace in Chechnya has been restored, and that means that peace has set in throughout Russia as well," Yeltsin said in the Urals Mountain city of Ufa during a campaign trip Thursday.

But reaction to Yandarbiyev's pact with Moscow drew hostile reactions from at least two Chechen camps.

In Grozny, rebel field commander Shamil Basayev criticized Yandarbiyev for agreeing to a cease-fire. "Nobody empowered Yandarbiyev to hold talks with Russia," Interfax reported Basayev as saying.

Doku Zavgayev, the Moscow-installed leader of Chechnya, also slammed Yandarbiyev on Thursday, calling him "a bandit who represents bandits."

"[Yandarbiyev] represents bandits and he himself is a bandit," he said at a news conference in Grozny. "If I am wrong, he should go to court [to sue me].

"I will say more -- there is a criminal case opened against him. He is being sought. He was not detained [in Moscow] only because the president had guaranteed his safety."

Zavgayev, elected last December in a vote which most observers called unfair and which was ignored by areas held by the separatists, was unhappy at being sidelined. In Moscow, the rebels bluntly refused to accept Zavgayev as the third party in the talks and Yeltsin made him a member of the Moscow delegation.

The accord does not touch on the most controversial issue -- Chechnya's future political status.

Both Moscow and Zavgayev's camp have frequently tried to drive a wedge between Yandarbiyev and powerful field commanders who repeatedly pledged their loyalty to the new leader.

"Today I will meet rebels and commanders from his [Yandarbiyev's] entourage and I am convinced that soon his entourage will surrender him because everyone is tired of him," Zavgayev told reporters.

His latest remarks appeared certain to infuriate the rebels and further complicate talks between the two sides on how to implement the deal and turn it into a lasting peace.

?Five armed men in masks attempted to seize a car full of journalists with the London-based Worldwide Television News as they entered Grozny, Interfax reported.

None of the journalists were injured in the attack, Interfax reported from Grozny. ()