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DATE=11/21/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA/CHECHNYA (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256409 BYLINE=WILLIAM GASPERINI DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian forces have moved closer to Chechnya's capital city, amid signs they will soon try to capture it. There are also signs that Russia's strategy involves much more than bombing, as Bill Gasperini reports from Moscow. TEXT: Russian troops are moving ever closer to Chechnya's capital city of Grozny as they continue to move steadily through the breakaway republic. Russian units have also taken control of several more villages in the southwestern region, a former stronghold of Chechen fighters. Many areas continue coming under heavy bombing and artillery strikes. The Russian strategy demonstrates that lessons have been learned since the last war against Chechnya, several-years ago. Then, thousands of young soldiers died in frontal attacks against Chechen fighters who showed they were adept at urban street fighting. This time, the Russian advance has been much slower, with almost constant bomb and artillery strikes to push fighters back before troops move in. In some areas, Russian officers have negotiated with village elders who were more interested in saving their towns from destruction than putting up resistance. In other towns, refugees have even returned home after receiving assurances there would be no more bombing. This "heart and mind" strategy also includes Russian civilian officials who deal with vital services such as gas and electricity. Government ministers in charge of fuel, energy, and electricity visited Chechnya and announced Sunday that electric power will soon be restored in towns that have been taken by Russian forces. The head of Russia's main energy system, Anatoly Chubais, said this process will begin in Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city, seized more than a week ago. In some northern parts of Chechnya, teachers and medical workers will soon receive their wages, and elderly people their pensions. But it remains to be seen how effective this strategy will be in the long run. Russia also occupied much of Chechnya during the last war, when it proved much harder to hold onto territory than to seize control of it. Military officials estimate more than five-thousand Chechen fighters are preparing to resist any advance into Grozny -- an indication that the war is far from over. (SIGNED) NEB/WG/ALW/RAE 21-Nov-1999 10:29 AM EDT (21-Nov-1999 1529 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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