TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA / O-S-C-E (L)
INTRO: A senior Russian general says federal troops
could take control of the Chechen capital Grozny
within days. Soldiers are already moving into the
city, battling rebel forces in several districts. V-
O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports that hopes are
growing for direct negotiations between Russian and
TEXT: Deputy Chief of Staff General Valery Manilov
told a gathering of foreign defense attaches in Moscow
the return of Grozny to federal control is imminent.
/// MANILOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN, FADE UNDER ///
He says the question of Grozny's liberation is just a
matter of days. The general added that "freeing" the
rest of Chechen territory would take a few more weeks.
Russian forces already control more than 50 percent of
the breakaway region.
In Grozny, meanwhile, ground fighting raged for a
second day amid the wreckage of bombed homes and
factories. The Associated Press quotes a Chechen
commander as saying rebel forces repulsed six Russian
attacks during clashes in the northern and
southeastern sectors of the city.
A Russian officer quoted by the French news agency
described the situation as "very difficult," and said
rebel fighters are well prepared to defend the city.
In another development, Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov appealed for a meeting with the head of the
European security organization, the O-S-C-E, who is
visiting the region. O-S-C-E chief Knut Vollebaek
earlier said he was willing to mediate in talks
between the two sides.
But Moscow soundly rejected the suggestion. Deputy
Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev, travelling with
Mr. Vollebaek in the Russian-controlled region of
Chechnya, called such a meeting "unnatural."
/// AVDEYEV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///
He says Russia does not need mediators, calling it
"an artificial formula." Mr. Avdeyev said before any
mediation can take place, there must be an invitation
from the government, adding "there will not be such
Russia's minister for emergency situations, Sergei
Shoigu, said he would be willing to hold direct talks
with President Maskhadov. But Foreign Ministry
spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin says any such talks would
focus exclusively on humanitarian issues.
/// RAKHMANIN ACT ///
As I understand the situation, Minister Shoigu
was talking about negotiations with Mr.
Maskhadov regarding the civilian population that
is still left in Grozny. It's important to find
ways to let those people leave Grozny.
/// END ACT ///
Minister Shoigu told reporters there may be as many as
30-thousand civilians remaining in the capital, though
other estimates range as high as 50-thousand. Those
still there are said to be desperately short of food
and other necessities.
A Chechen commander was quoted Wednesday as saying
there are also at least seven-thousand rebel fighters
in the city.
There is no official estimate of the number of
troops Moscow has poured into the Chechen campaign,
but experts say the figure is well over 100-thousand.
15-Dec-1999 13:20 PM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1820 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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