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DATE=1/7/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L) NUMBER=2-257874 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Despite poor weather, Russian warplanes are pounding targets throughout Chechnya, carrying out dozens of sorties over the breakaway republic on Friday. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports federal forces are also bombarding the southern rebel stronghold of Vedeno as part of a campaign to take control of Chechnya's mountains. TEXT: Russian military officials says troops are advancing into the Chechen capital, Grozny, in door- to-door fightin. But heavy fog and snow are preventing helicopter gunships from providing close ground cover. Federal commanders say Chechen rebels have changed their tactics from frontal attacks to hit-and-run missions, targeting troops at nighttime or during times of heavy cloud cover. They say the rebels work in teams of 10 to 15 men and are well-armed and mobile. Federal air and artillery raids are focused on what Russian officials describe as the rebel mountain stronghold of Vedeno. A Russian military officer said almost all of the artillery of Russia's eastern forces has been brought to Vedeno to carry out the attacks. Russian news agencies report troops have blockaded Vedeno's southern outskirts and are trying to encircle the town. Military officials said they had interrupted their bombardment of the neighboring village of Serzhen-Yurt because of the number of civilians still trapped inside. Independent news reports from the capital, Grozny, say groups of rebels have tried to break out of the besieged city but were forced back by Russian troops. An estimated two-thousand guerillas are defending Grozny and rebel commanders say they will fight to last man. Russian officials, who at the start of the campaign said Grozny would be taken within days, have blamed their slow progress on difficult weather conditions. Russian generals have also admitted that unexpectedly strong rebel resistance has slowed their advance into the capital. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/LTD/JO 07-Jan-2000 10:37 AM EDT (07-Jan-2000 1537 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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