TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L)
INTRO: Russia's military says troops have taken
control of a key central square in Grozny as fierce
street fighting rages between federal forces and
rebels in the Chechen capital. V-O-A Moscow
correspondent Eve Conant reports rebels say 45 of
their men have been killed and 60 wounded in the last
few days of fighting in the city.
TEXT: Federal forces are moving forward street by
street into the center of Grozny, with air and
artillery attacks covering their advance. Russian
officials say the estimated two-thousand rebels
defending Grozny are running out of ammunition and
many are trying to break out of the surrounded city.
A pro-Moscow Chechen militia leader says Russian
troops had taken control of Grozny's Minutka Square,
but reports from the ground say clashes continue.
Chechen rebels say they ambushed and captured a top
Russian officer, General Mikhail Malofeyev. Russia's
Defense Ministry has confirmed the general is missing.
A Chechen rebel (internet) website admits dozens of
their men have been killed and wounded in recent
fighting. The figures are much higher than any
previously reported rebel figures over a 24-hour
period since the federal offensive began.
But the Chechen report also said as many as one-
thousand-500 Russian troops had died while trying to
storm Grozny. Both sides have tended to exaggerate
enemy casualties in the past. Russian forces have
reported few casualties in recent days.
The second part of Russia's offensive is in Chechnya's
southern mountains, where federal warplanes and
artillery have stepped up their attacks on the Argun
gorge. Russian General Vadim Timchenko says rebels
are putting up tough resistance.
/// Timchenko Act in Russian in full and
fade under ///
"The harder we attack Grozny, the more the rebels
fight us in the mountains," he says. "Battles are
especially fierce in the Argun gorge."
Local villagers say more than two-dozen civilians have
died in attacks over the past two days.
Federal forces say they aim to complete the Chechnya
offensive before Russia's presidential elections in
late March. But fighting could easily turn into a
partisan war - with Chechen rebels staging more hit-
and-run counterattacks in federally occupied parts of
A delegation from the Council of Europe's
parliamentary assembly told a Moscow news conference
the Council will discuss the possible suspension of
Russia's membership at a meeting next week. Council
officials have called for a cease-fire and are
concerned over the growing number of civilian
casualties in Chechnya. (Signed)
20-Jan-2000 11:18 AM EDT (20-Jan-2000 1618 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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