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Jonathan Charles in Chechnya
"Any evacuation would require a ceasefire"
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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"Grozny is the big prize for the Russian military"
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Jonathan Charles reports:
"Russia is coming under renewed pressure to save the trapped civilians in Grozny"
 real 28k

Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 09:13 GMT
Grozny evacuation talks fail

Russian troops Russian troops head towards Grozny

Russian and Chechen representatives have met to discuss the fate of civilians trapped in the besieged capital, Grozny.

Battle for the Caucasus
Russian forces are continuing an all-out attack on the Chechen city and fierce fighting has continued overnight.

Battles have been fought in the centre and the suburbs of Grozny as Russian troops supported by heavy artillery reportedly press their advance from several directions.

Chechen paramilitaries loyal to Moscow, and who know Grozny well, are believed to be among the advancing Russian troops.

The meeting between Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoygu and a spokesman for the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov is said to have produced no workable plan on how to save the civilians.

A BBC correspondent on the Chechen border says any evacuation would require a ceasefire, which he says appears unlikely.

Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Ekho Moskvy radio: "The fighting is getting more and more fierce."

The Russian news agency RIA has reported that federal troops are on course to win full control of Grozny by Monday.

Cautious advance

Russian APC Russian guns are in position in mountains south of Grozny
A Russian military spokesman, Major Alexander Diordiyev, has denied that the city is being "stormed" in the traditional sense of the word.

He said the attack will be completed "intelligently", to "avoid unnecessary losses among Russian troops and civilians".

The onslaught is reportedly being launched from four directions to pin down the rebels and prevent them from moving around in small units.

Moscow wants to avoid the mistakes of the 1994-96 Chechnya war, in which Russian infantry stormed the city, only to be surrounded and wiped out by rebels.

Click here to see a map of Grozny and surrounding areas

Russia's three-stage assault
1. Special forces penetrate the city
2. Troops take key points
3. Rebel troops destroyed

Russian soldiers are at a disadvantage in street-to-street fighting because the rebels know the layout of the ruined city and have a network of trenches.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles on the Chechen border said Russian soldiers have been painting identification signs on their shirts, so they could be recognised by their own side during street-to-street fighting.

The Chechen rebels often wear uniforms similar to the Russians.

Russians approach centre

Fighting has been reported at Minutka Square, near the centre of the city, at a bridge over the Neftianka river in the north of the city, and near a reservoir further south.

Chechen fighter Chechen fighters say they can hold out for three months
Russian sources put the size of the Chechen force in the city between 1,500 and 5,000, divided into operating units of 15-20.

About 100,000 Russian troops are reported to have been deployed there.

Russia's civilian envoy in Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, has said the operation will be over in days, but the defence ministry has estimated it will take two weeks .

The rebels said they had enough food and ammunition to hold out for three months.

Grozny is the last rebel stronghold in Chechnya's northern lowlands. But thousands of militants have redeployed to the southern mountains.

According to the Russian media the fighting in the city is seen by the Russian generals as a a 'side-show' to the longer task of rooting out rebel bases in the south.

Russia says it has closed off the republic's southern border to stop rebels escaping.

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See also:
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
10 Dec 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Danger ahead for Russia's military
24 Dec 99 |  Europe
In pictures: Chechen conflict
23 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russia ignores warning on Chechnya
22 Dec 99 |  Europe
New evidence of Chechen massacre
23 Dec 99 |  Europe
In pictures: Fighters in the Chechen war
20 Dec 99 |  Europe
'Village massacre' near Grozny
21 Dec 99 |  Europe
UN returns to help Chechens
19 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Undercover in Chechnya

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