Russia says about 250 rebels launched a coordinated attack on the Chechen capital Grozny just before President Vladimir Putin’s visit at the weekend. A Russian military spokesman told the BBC that in 12 parts of the city groups of fighters, many dressed as policemen, opened fire on Saturday night. Cars, a market and a police station all came under fire.
The spokesman said six civilians died and more than 20 were injured. Fifty rebels were killed, he said.
Russian newspapers on Tuesday claimed the casualty figures were considerably higher, with unconfirmed reports of more than 70 people killed.
The violence came just hours before President Putin’s surprise trip to Chechnya to visit the grave of the assassinated local leader Akhmad Kadyrov.
With less than a week to go before presidential elections in the breakaway North Caucasus republic, this major rebel attack on the Chechen capital comes as an embarrassment to the Russian authorities, which had claimed that the situation there was under control.