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DATE=10/19/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-255226 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia's military command says warplanes and artillery are attacking what they call "rebel positions" near several eastern and southern villages in the breakaway Chechen region. Although Russian forces have not said if they plan to take Chechnya's capital, Chechens are digging trenches and preparing to defend Grozny. Correspondent Eve Conant in Moscow reports. TEXT: Russian military officials say (Tuesday) scores of Islamic fighters were killed in recent bombing raids. But in a counter claim, Chechen military commanders say they've used Russian-made multiple rocket launchers to kill dozens of government soldiers and destroy several tanks. Neither report could be independently confirmed. Casualty figures from both sides have proven to be greatly exaggerated since Russia's military campaign in Chechnya began last month. Media spokesman for Russia's eastern troops, Gennady Alekhin, says Russian forces are prepared for an extended campaign. ///Act Alekhin in Russian in full and fade under/// "Russian troops have all the ammunition, machinery, and food to fulfill whatever task they are assigned next." He says, "We don't know what that task will be but we are ready." The Russian command says it is preparing a second phase of attacks against Islamic militants throughout the breakaway republic. But officials have shied away from saying if Russian troops plan to take the capital Grozny. Nonetheless, news reports from Grozny say Islamic militants are digging trenches and preparing for a possible attack against the capital. Many parts of Grozny are still in ruins from Russian bombing attacks during the 1994-1996 war. ///REST OPT/// Russian President Boris Yeltsin has sent a message to President Bill Clinton saying Moscow is seeking a political solution to the conflict. In a statement released by the Kremlin, President Yeltsin was quoted as saying Russia seeks to restore "constitutional order" in the breakaway region. On Tuesday, Russian television programs aired pictures of the first small groups of refugees climbing on buses to return to Chechnya. Russian officials say they want refugees to populate Chechnya's barren northern territory, now controlled by Russian forces. The repatriation effort appears to be designed to show how life under Moscow's rule is superior to living under Chechen authority. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/ENE/JO 19-Oct-1999 12:01 PM EDT (19-Oct-1999 1601 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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