Moscow's Endgame?

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PERVOMAYSKAYA, DAGESTAN: Russian forces began an all-out assault against Chechen rebels, nearly leveling the town of Pervomayskaya. Military leaders began to hit the town with a barrage from highly destructive Grad rocket launchers after they claimed that none of as many as 120 hostages held by rebels remained alive. Despite the attack, the some 200 Chechens retain control of much of the village. Meanwhile, Turkish Coast Guard ships are shadowing a Turkish ferry seized by Chechen rebels Tuesday as it makes its way towards Istanbul. The rebels say they will kill the 144 Russians on board and then blow up the ship in the critical Bosporous strait, potentially halting shipping between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, if the Russians don't end their siege of Pervomayskaya. "Turkish security authorities say the ship does not have enough fuel to get to Istanbul," reports TIME's James Wilde. "It's thought that the hijackers may try to refuel at the Black Sea port of Samsun, which is halfway to Istanbul." The ship is due in Istanbul on Friday, if it makes it that far. The Turks, who are generally sympathetic to the Chechen independence movement, are loath to board the ship and unleash a bloodbath. However, there may be a bloodbath if they don't."