TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L)
INTRO: Fierce battles between Russian troops and
Chechen fighters are raging in the Chechen capital,
Grozny. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports
Russia's military says it will take full control of
Chechnya's mountainous region within weeks, but
accuses neighboring Georgia of aiding and harboring
TEXT: Rebel fighters are putting up strong resistance
to Russian forces as they try to edge their way closer
to the center of the rebel capital, Grozny.
The French news agency quotes a Russian officer as
saying more than one-dozen Russian soldiers were
killed (late Wednesday) while trying to reclaim the
Grozny suburb of Chernorechiye - which serves as the
main exit route for Chechen guerillas holed up inside
Grozny. The agency said Russian soldiers were calling
for intensified air strikes to help support the
struggling ground troops.
Members of a pro-Moscow Chechen militia claim the
rebel capital, Grozny, will fall to the Russians
within one week.
But a Chechen official says fighters in Grozny have
enough ammunition and supplies to hold out another
three months. Thousands of Chechen fighters have set
up fortifications in the city and have vowed to fight
to the last man.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was undeterred
Thursday, telling government officials that most of
Chechnya is now under Moscow's control.
/// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER
He says that 90 percent of the population now lives in
Russian-controlled parts of Chechnya, and that there
is little resistance. But, he says, "We will need to
exert much more effort to clear Chechnya of
terrorists. Our military operation is not yet over."
Russia's military says its warplanes bombed targets in
Chechnya's southern mountains and on the outskirts of
Grozny. But Chechen civilians who were able to leave
the capital say there has been constant shelling in
all parts of the city.
Russia has accused Georgia, the only foreign country
that borders Chechnya, of aiding and harboring rebels.
Russian military officials say hundreds of Chechen
extremists have set up a camp just inside the Georgian
border. Georgia firmly denies the Russian charges.
23-Dec-1999 10:28 AM EDT (23-Dec-1999 1528 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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