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DATE=12/30/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L) NUMBER=2-257629 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia is raining rockets and artillery fire on the center of Grozny as ground forces try to advance against Chechen rebel fighters entrenched in the city. Correspondent Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports a senior Russian military commander is threatening to use more powerful weapons against rebel strongholds. TEXT: Chechen fighters maintain their grip on central districts of Grozny as federal troops cautiously advance from three directions. A rebel website reported clashes at several points in the city, as well as fighting at towns and villages in the mountainous southern region along Chechnya's borders with Dagestan and Georgia. Rebels say they killed 70 Russian soldiers overnight, and as many as one-thousand since the battle for Grozny began. The state-run ITAR-Tass news agency reported 80 Chechen fighters died in the latest clashes. Neither report could be independently confirmed. ITAR-Tass reported rebel attacks on police checkpoints in two villages in the northern region that have been under federal control since early October. The agency said the rebels used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles in the attacks, but gave no information about casualties. Russian warplanes kept up their punishing raids, carrying out scores of sorties over the capital and outlying districts. Air Force Chief, General Anatoly Kornukov, in a sign of Russia's growing impatience with the slow progress against the rebel fighters, said forces are considering moving to heavier weapons. The general did not specify what weapons he meant. In Moscow, Russia's prosecutor general's office summoned Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to testify on what it called the genocide of the region's ethnic- Russian population. A spokeswoman said mass graves containing about one-thousand bodies had been discovered in territory recently returned to Russian control. She said the bodies are believed to be those of ethnic Russians killed since 1991. But she had no information on how the Chechen president might be interviewed. /// REST OPT /// In another incident, Russian authorities detained seven western journalists in Chechnya, including two U-S newspaper correspondents. The journalists say they were held for nine-hours and released after being warned they would be expelled if found in the rebel region again. Russia has tightly-controlled media access to the war zone. Few journalists have visited Grozny since the early days of the offensive, and most reports about the conflict are based largely on information from official Russian government sources. (SIGNED) NEB/PFH/JWH/RAE 30-Dec-1999 13:41 PM EDT (30-Dec-1999 1841 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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