For Want of a Bridge

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DAGESTAN, RUSSIA: A blown-up bridge has stopped buses carrying Chechen rebels returning home after their raid on the Russian town of Kizlyar. The rebels, who earlier freed most of the 2,000 hostages they had held overnight in Kizlyar in return for safe passage back to the Chechen republic, have threatened to start shooting the 160 remaining hostages unless the Russian Interior Ministry allows them to use another route. Although the Interfax news agency reports that Russian helicopters have fired several shots at the bus convoy, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised that no action would be taken that would endanger the hostages' lives: "We aren't going to start frontal attacks, or act according to an eye-for-an-eye principle, since we feel convinced that death only brings death," he said. "But the bandits and the terrorists will be punished." The Prime Minister added that Russia would never meet the separatists' longstanding demand for independence: "Chechnya is Russia." Reports that the rebels killed several hostages before boarding the buses are so far unconfirmed.