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DATE=1/3/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECNYA (L) NUMBER=2-257725 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia is keeping up its air and artillery bombardment of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and has also intensified bombing of rebel strongholds in Chechnya's southern mountains. But as V-O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports, the attempt by federal troops to capture the center of Grozny appears to be stalled. TEXT: Reports from Chechnya speak of another day of massive air attacks and street fighting in and around Grozny. Warplanes are said to have carried out 89 raids, while artillery and rockets were reported falling on the city all day. // OPT // Each side claims to have inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, but there is no way to verify the reports. In the past, both sides have been guilty of giving out wildly exaggerated enemy casualty reports, while hiding their own dead and wounded. // END OPT // Rebel spokesman, Movladi Udugov, tells news agencies Chechen fighters drove federal troops out of three villages on the southwestern edge of Grozny. He says clashes are continuing around the village of Alkhan- Yurt, scene of an alleged massacre by Russian troops last month. Mr. Udugov says the rebel operation at Alkhan-Yurt is being led by Chechen field commander, Arbi Barayev. Russian commanders reported several-days ago that Mr. Barayev had been killed in combat. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman denied that Alkhan-Yurt was back in rebel hands. It is impossible to verify the conflicting claims, but if true, the fall of Alkhan-Yurt would be a stunning reversal for Russian troops, who have seen their march into Grozny stymied by fierce rebel resistance. // OPT // Little independent information from Chechnya is reaching the outside world. Two of the three main international wire services reporting on the war Monday datelined their stories from Moscow. The dispatches were based mostly on official Russian government sources, or information received by telephone from Chechen spokesman Udugov, who occasionally contacts western news agencies. // END OPT // But the scant data available indicate the Russian advance into Grozny is stalled. When the operation to capture the capital began more than a week ago, federal commanders confidently predicted on television that they would take the city within days. The latest T-V reports from the state-controlled channels quote soldiers as saying they are encountering much tougher than expected resistance. The French news agency quotes a senior Russian Interior Ministry officer at the front as saying he had lost 50-killed and 100-wounded in the past 48- hours. The officer, whose name was not given, said -- it is not possible to take Grozny this way. He said unless more army troops are committed, the war may drag on much longer. In Moscow, acting President Vladimir Putin ignored the Monday holiday and held a Kremlin meeting with his senior most official on Chechen affairs, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman. Afterward, Mr. Koshman told reporters the discussions had centered on restoring electricity and other essential services to areas of Chechnya that have been returned to federal control. (SIGNED) NEB/PFH/GE/RAE 03-Jan-2000 09:51 AM EDT (03-Jan-2000 1451 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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