Russian forces advanced through snowy alleys and seized shell-shattered high-rises from rebels Saturday in the Chechen capital, Grozny, but Chechens said they were letting the Russians move in so they could attack from behind.
The Russians' assault on Grozny has concentrated for more than a week on Minutka Square, which they advanced toward on Saturday. Taking the square would give federal forces leverage to push the rebels out of the city center.
Meanwhile, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said 54 rebels surrendered in northeast Grozny to forces led by pro-Moscow Chechen leader Bislan Gantamirov.
But up to 3,000 fighters are believed to remain in Grozny, and it was unclear whether the surrender would mean much in the monthlong battle for the city.