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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

General Refused Orders to Strike Nonmilitary Targets




Russia's air force chief, under fire for what the West says is indiscriminate bombing in Chechnya, said in an interview published Tuesday he had refused "incomprehensible" orders to hit non-military targets.


Colonel General Anatoly Kornukov also was quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying the air force was mounting about 100 sorties against Chechnya every 24 hours but there had been just two mistakes in thousands of bombing runs.


"There have been occasions when for incomprehensible reasons the air force was advised to carry out strikes on sites that could not be regarded as military targets in any way," he said. "In those cases, we refused to carry out the tasks."


Kornukov did not say who had given the orders and what the targets were.


He said there had been just two mistakes: the first when Russia accidentally bombed Georgian territory in August, and the second when a car was hit because it strayed behind enemy lines.


He denied his aircraft had struck a convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC said last month two of its local workers had been killed and one badly wounded when a refugee convoy came under air attack.


Kornukov told the newspaper the air force would unveil new, powerful weapons early next month and would use them in Chechnya if ordered.


Another top Russian commander said Tuesday the military would rely on artillery attacks rather than storming the towns held by militants.


"This is not a classical war, but a counter-terrorist operation," said Major General Vladimir Shamanov. "There will be no stormings. The troops have used and will be using the tactics of wearing down the rebels' resistance with artillery."


Shamanov was leading Russian troops eastward to the town of Achkhoi-Martan, about 25 kilometers southwest of Grozny.


He told reporters that Russian forces were counting on negotiations with elders in the town, "so they can drive the rebels out of their villages themselves."


Refugees from the town reported that Russian forces shelled Achkhoi-Martan all day Monday.


Kremlin-connected businessman Boris Berezovsky, who has close contacts in Chechnya, on Tuesday offered the draft of a seven-point political deal to end Russia's offensive. He was quoted by Interfax as outlining the plan on a trip to Karachayevo-Cherkessia, a North Caucasus region where he is running for a seat in the federal parliament. The following are the main points of Berezovsky's plan:


1. Russia remains undivided and Chechnya stays part of it.


2. Chechnya adheres to the Russian Constitution.


3. Any political deal on Chechnya should be backed by the majority of the population in the region.


4. A final political settlement is to be reached only through talks.


5. To avoid further civilian casualties, rebel forces should voluntarily lay down their arms. Rebel commanders who cannot accept the terms of the peace plan should leave the country.


6. Suspected terrorists should face trial under international law.


7. The international community and Russia should accept the ruling at a such a trial whatever it might be.