Insurgents Storm Grozny's Parliament Complex

There was fresh violence Tuesday in one of Russia's most turbulent regions, Chechnya. Insurgents broke into the regional parliament, set off an explosive and engaged in a deadly gun battle with guards.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

There was violence this morning in one of Russia's most turbulent regions. Insurgents in Chechnya broke into the parliament, set off an explosive and engaged in a deadly gun battle with guards. NPR's Moscow correspondent David Greene is on the line to tell us some details about what happened.

And, David, what exactly did happen down there in Chechnya?

DAVID GREENE: Well, as we understand it, Renee, a group of insurgents - it sounds like perhaps four - came onto the grounds of the parliament building in the capital of Chechnya Grozny - perhaps as members of parliament themselves were arriving for work.

And one report suggests that one of the insurgents set off a bomb - a suicide bomb - while three others engaged in what sounds like a pretty chaotic gun battle with guards.

And the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, says that two policemen - two guards at the parliament complex were killed, in addition to one other worker -a maintenance worker at the parliament building. And then there was a very quick operation by police forces to kill the remaining insurgents.

And so it sounds like we have perhaps a dozen injuries, and then maybe six or seven people dead in what all took place in maybe just 15 or 20 minutes down there in Chechnya.

MONTAGNE: Is there any sense of what set this particular attack off?

GREENE: There's not. I mean, this is a region, we should say, a Republic of Russia that has been violent for several centuries. I mean, Tolstoy wrote about Muslim insurgents and separatists fighting against Russian forces. This is in Russia's North�Caucasus region. It's down by the Caspian Sea. I mean, it's largely Muslim. It's been a place where separatists have been fighting for a very long time.

Now, we should say that recently, the Russian-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who's appointed by the Kremlin, seemed to have things under control -still battling terrorists and trying to keep insurgents at bay. So whether this sort of ups the ante, whether an attack on the parliament in this Republic of Russia, suggests that insurgents are making some more progress - that we'll have to see.

But it's worth noting, Renee, that Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, came out this morning and he mentioned the name of Akhmed Zakayev, who is a separatist leader of the Chechen separatist movement who's in exile in Britain, and suggested that perhaps he had something to do with this.

What exactly is behind this attack, Renee, we don't really know right now. Whether this is, you know, terrorist insurgents or whether this is some kind of strategic political attack on the Kadyrov government, trying to undermine him.

MONTAGNE: Well, as you said, there has been some progress, by Russian standards, and then rebuilding in Chechnya. What about retaliation from Russian forces, against this attack or these insurgents?

GREENE: There has been progress and there has been rebuilding. And President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia has talked about, you know, building the economy in these turbulent North�Caucasus regions and focusing on that more than antiterrorism operations.

But we should say that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia, when he was president, I mean, he made getting Chechnya under control a huge priority. There was a separatist war that he fought against. And, you know, putting an end to violence there and trying to end terrorism in the North�Caucasus was a huge political benefit for Vladimir Putin. And so it's a real risk for him, if Chechnya gets out of control again.

So I think for that reason and others it would not be surprising if we see the Russian government really try to tighten the screws and try to put down any insurgency that's there.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much.

GREENE: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's David Greene speaking to us from Moscow.

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