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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Airstrikes Continue Despite General's Promise

Military aircraft on Monday bombed areas of southern Chechnya and the Kremlin scotched reports that strikes would cease, saying its troops would continue to target guerrilla mountain strongholds.

Gennady Troshev, the military commander in the region, was quoted by Interfax as saying Sunday the war was all but over and troops "are not to undertake attacks and not to carry out air and artillery strikes."

He was later shown on ORT television saying federal forces would not carry out "massive" air strikes. "Why hit two or three people with air or artillery strikes?" he said.

Asked to clarify Troshev's comments, the Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Monday that Troshev had been misinterpreted and strikes would continue in the mountains.

"Gennady Troshev said artillery will be used only in extreme situations and only outside built-up areas," Yastrzhembsky said by telephone. "Aviation, as he said, is being used a lot less but that doesn't mean it won't be used at all."

Interfax quoted military headquarters in Mozdok, just outside Chechnya, as saying Su-25 attack planes flew 12 missions to strike at rebel bases in the southern mountains and helicopters flew 30 missions.

Troshev's comments came a day after Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, visiting Moscow, said he believed Moscow had declared a "de facto cease-fire."

Troshev said he and Chechnya's new civilian administrator, Akhmed Kadyrov, had agreed that air and artillery attacks would be halted.

"We came to the common conclusion that the war, as such, is over on the territory of Chechnya," Troshev was quoted as saying.

Many army units would be sent back to bases. Interior Ministry units would be deployed in key areas until the rebel threat was eliminated and Chechnya eventually stabilized, he said.

"When this happens f within a month, half a year or a year f is unimportant," he was quoted as saying. "The main thing is that the faster the bandits are destroyed, the faster stabilization will come."

Kadyrov said Sunday a weekend meeting of top Moslem clergy in the region had urged separatist President Aslan Maskhadov and fighters under his command to lay down their weapons and stop resisting the federal army.

On Monday, three rebel commanders broadcast a televised appeal for fighters to throw their support behind Kadyrov.

An official in Gudermes identified them as Salman Aduyev, Ali Sultanov and Ibragim Saidov. Maskhadov acknowledged that they and other commanders have split from his command, Interfax said.

Yastrzhembsky called the Moslem clergy's address "the first noticeable success'' for Kadyrov, who was appointed on June 12, Itar-Tass reported.

Kadyrov's authority had been challenged last week by some local officials, but Troshev said such suspicion was normal in Chechnya.

"Given the Chechen mentality, if someone else had been appointed, some people would have opposed him. That's how Chechens are," he told NTV. "They think first of themselves f the reaction is 'Why wasn't I appointed instead of Kadyrov?'"