The Kremlin says the body of the Russian Army's deputy commander in war-torn Chechnya has been found as fierce fighting rages in the breakaway republic.
Mikhail Malofeyev disappeared in the Russian Army's latest assault on the Chechen capital of Grozny last week. Sunday, the Interfax news agency reports Malofeyev's body was discovered at the site of the battle where he was killed, according to Sergei Yastrzhembsky, aide to Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia predicts victory over the Islamic rebels, but the two sides continued to battle to a standstill on the streets of Grozny through the weekend. Malofeyev was killed in a part of the city that the Russians claim to control. And, as CBS News' Allen Pizzey reports, Grozny remains rebel territory.
Optimistic predictions that firepower alone would blast Chechen rebels out of Grozny are literally blowing up in the Russian army's face. An estimated 2500 rebel fighters there refuse to give up, and their suicidal determination is proving more than a match for Russian firepower. They allow the Russians to advance, then emerge from sewers and rubble to slaughter them.
"There are only a few of them but they fire at us from every direction with all kinds of weapons," one Russian soldier said.
A flood of wounded and soldiers, ill from the cold weather and filthy conditions, forced one military hospital to double up patients. The exact casualty count is still in dispute, but an indication came from a soldier, who said that out of 70 men in his unit who went into Grozny, only 25 are left.
"You see graffiti on the walls," the soldier said. "Welcome to Hell, take two."
Acting Russian President Putin has warned of a growing danger of terrorism. "This will exist," he said, "until we have crushed the bandits in Chechnya."
The Kremlin has justified the war as a response to bombings of Russian buildings blamed on Chechen rebels. In the last few weeks, a number of apparent bombing attempts have been thwarted. In Moscow, people are beginning to question whether all of them really were the work of Chechen terrorists -- or part of a cynical plot to justify the continuation of an increasingly desperate war.
And a radio report from neighboring Afghanistan claims that Chechnya has opened an embassy in that country, one week after the ruling Taliban officially recognized the breakway Russian republic. The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has criticized other Muslim countries as well as the United Nations for failing to help Chechnya. Russia accuses the Taliban, which rules 90 percent of Afghanistan, of sending manpower and military aid to the Chechen rebel resistance.