TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L)
INTRO: Russian forces are using artillery and air
strikes to cover ground troops moving within a few
kilometers of the Chechen capital, Grozny. V-O-A
Correspondent Eve Conant reports from Moscow.
TEXT: News agencies say Russian reconnaissance teams
have pushed into several villages on the edge of
Grozny. But Chechen military leaders say there has
been no fighting inside the capital.
The majority of the city's civilian population has
fled, leaving the streets mostly deserted. Russian
forces have prevented a further exodus by closing the
main route leading out of Chechnya into the
neighboring republic of Ingushetia.
Reports from the region say many refugees who want to
escape are trapped inside Chechnya while others who
want to return to their homes to collect relatives or
possessions cannot reenter. News reports say
civilians can be seen at roadblocks pleading with
Russian soldiers to allow them out.
/// OPT /// The United Nations refugee agency is
calling on Russia to reopen the border to allow what
it describes as "tens of thousands" of civilians to
leave the combat zone. /// END OPT ///
Contact with Chechen officials has been cut off. One
of the last telephone lines to the Chechen
presidential administration was not working Tuesday.
Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, says the
Kremlin fully supports the campaign so far.
/// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///
Prime Minister Putin says he evaluates the Chechen
operation very positively. He says Russian troops are
strictly following and fulfilling the battle plan
Federal forces continue to carry out air strikes and
shelling in areas to the north and east of Grozny.
The Associated Press reports Russian forces have
shelled the city's airport, but that report could not
be independently confirmed.
A leading general says Russia has placed a one-
million-dollar bounty on Shamil Basayev, a Chechen
guerilla leader who launched raids into neighboring
Dagestan. Russia considers him responsible for a
series of deadly apartment bombings. Mr. Basayev --
in interviews with Western reporters -- has vehemently
denied any involvement in the bomb attacks. (Signed)
26-Oct-1999 18:13 PM EDT (26-Oct-1999 2213 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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