GROZNY, Russia (AP) _ Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers stormed Grozny for the first time on Wednesday and were beaten back in bitter street fighting by Chechen defenders near the city center.

Several burning tanks and armored personnel carriers were in Minutka Square after the Russian attack was stopped early Wednesday evening by rebel fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades. The bodies of several dead Russian soldiers were seen sprawled around the burning wrecks of the vehicles.

It was the first time Russian armored forces had tried to move into Grozny since federal troops encircled the Chechen capital last month. The attack indicated that Russian commanders were stepping up their efforts to capture the Chechen capital.