INTRO: Russia's defense minister says federal forces
have achieved a breakthrough in their march on the
Chechen capital, Grozny. A senior general predicts
rebels in the city will be defeated within days. But
as VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports,
Chechen fighters are putting up stiff resistance and
claim to be inflicting heavy casualties on advancing
TEXT: Deputy Chief of Staff General Valery Manilov
says the fall of Grozny could come in as little as one
or two, but no more than 10, days. Speaking at a news
conference, General Manilov said federal troops are
steadily advancing from all directions toward the
center of the city, where thousands of Chechen rebels
are putting up a fierce fight.
///Manilov act in Russian, then fade to...///
He says "Already troops in the city are advancing step
by step to within two, three, four or five kilometers
of the center, depending on the direction."
Earlier, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Russian
troops and pro-Moscow Chechen militias have regained
the momentum in their assault on the capital. He told
the semi-official Interfax news agency rebel forces
are putting up a fierce fight, but are running low on
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, however, says his
forces are inflicting heavy losses on federal troops.
The French news agency reports Mr. Maskhadov appeared
on local television, saying corpses of Russian
soldiers were lying in the streets after a battle
Monday in one outlying district.
The Chechen leader was quoted as saying he regrets the
fate of Russian troops being sent into Grozny.
A Chechen rebel website reported hundreds of Russian
soldiers killed in the first three days of the assault
on Grozny. But General Manilov told reporters Tuesday
not a single soldier had died in the past 24 hours.
There is no way to confirm casualty reports, but
correspondents in the capital say oil fires are
burning as rebels try to slow the Russian advance.
An Associated Press reporter in the center of Grozny
Tuesday described the Chechen fighters as `confident'
and showing no sign of wanting to leave. The reporter
did, however, confirm that the rebels are complaining
of ammunition and supply shortages.
In Moscow, meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin brushed
aside growing international criticism of the Chechnya
offensive, presenting the operation's three top
commanders with Russia's highest honor. At a Kremlin
ceremony, Mr. Yeltsin said the success of the campaign
had brought new respect to the country's beleaguered
///Yeltsin act in Russian, then fade to...///
He says "There were small errors in the earlier
Chechen war that eventually led to serious mistakes."
But, he added, "the army's conduct this time has been
Russian forces have advanced slowly into Grozny during
the current campaign, trying to avoid the heavy
casualties they suffered in the previous conflict in
the mid-nineties. That war ended in a humiliating
defeat in 1996, with Moscow being forced to withdraw
all its troops from the breakaway region. (Signed)
28-Dec-1999 18:46 PM EDT (28-Dec-1999 2346 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list