The Russian military operation in the breakaway republic of Chechnya is continuing on three separate fronts. Russian field officers say its tanks and artillary are pounding Chechyan positions from a distance whenever they meet resistance. Chechen officials claim 64 Russian soldiers and three Chechen troops have been killed in recent clashes in northern Chechnya. The Chechyen president Aslan Maskhadov urged his people to unite to drive out what he called the invaders.

As the Russian military operation continues, an estimated 110,000 refugees have fled the conflict to the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia. Reports say the influx of refugees have overwhelmed resources in the territory. The Ingush President Ruslan Aushev has warned that the humanitarian situation there is becoming serious, and there is a shortage of food, blankets and accommodation.

Despite Russian claims that their planes are targeting only military installations refugees claim there has been indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Moscow accuses Chechnya of offering a safe haven to Islamic separatists who it blames for a series of bomb attacks in Russia.

The German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has spoken by telephone to his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov expressing concern at developments in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. A spokesperson for the German Defense Ministry said Mr Fischer had outlined the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the region. However the spokesperson added that the two Ministers had agreed that the conflict could only be solved by political means.

Germany, Russia's largest creditor, issued a statement last week calling for Russia to take part in talks with the breakaway region, which Moscow has been bombing over the past week. The United States yesterday warned Russia that another war with Chechnya would damage Moscow's interests and threaten regional stability.