Russia Bans Flights to Chechnya, Puts Troops on Alert
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia has suspended all flights to and from Chechnya and put troops in neighboring areas on alert for fear of ″terrorist acts″ from the breakaway southern republic.
Tensions have been mounting over Chechnya, a tiny, mainly Muslim region of 1.2 million people in the Caucasus Mountains, with Russia warning that it was prepared to take steps to protect Russians there.
Chechnya declared independence from Moscow in 1991. Opposition to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev has been gaining strength amid growing lawlessness and a crumbling economy. Dudayev accuses Russia of supporting his political enemies and planning to invade Chechnya.
On Tuesday, Oleg Trufanov, deputy chief of the Russian Air Transport Department, said the two daily Aeroflot flights to and from Chechnya were temporarily suspended as of Monday.
Russian Interior Ministry troops in the southern Stavropol region, which borders Chechnya, were put on ″increased combat readiness in order to maintain public order,″ President Boris Yeltsin’s office said in a statement.
″The situation in Chechnya remains explosive,″ it said. ″Chechen officials have been threatening to carry out terrorist acts on Russian territory.″
Last week, a Moscow-supported opposition group calling itself the Provisional Council declared Dudayev ousted. It has only managed to establish control over one area, however, and Dudayev has remained in power in the republic’s capital, Grozny.