Seven Western journalists covering the Russian assault on the Chechen capital of Grozny, including Daniel Williams of The Washington Post, were detained by Russian security forces near the city yesterday and held for nine hours before being released.

The journalists were flown by helicopter to a Russian military base at Mozdok, 60 miles northwest of Grozny, and interrogated separately before being freed, Williams said by telephone after his release.

Russian Interior Ministry forces detained the group at the front line where Russian troops are battling Chechen separatists for control of Grozny.

The Russians said the journalists did not have proper documents to be present in a combat zone, Williams said.

In addition to Williams, David Filipov of the Boston Globe; Marcus Warren of Britain's Daily Telegraph; Rodriguez Fernandez of Spain's El Pais; Ricardo Ortega of Spanish Antenna 3 television; Ortega's camera operator, Teimuraz Gabashvili; and Michael Yassukovich, a freelance photographer from Britain, were also detained.

Williams, based in Moscow, is accredited by the Russian government to work as a correspondent. He has made numerous reporting trips to Chechnya since the Russian offensive began four months ago.

Williams said he was questioned in Mozdok for about 10 minutes and "was not told of any penalty." None of the journalists was physically mistreated, he said.