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Jim Fish reports for BBC News
"Moscow's hopes of a quick victory are being scaled back"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 January, 2000, 17:31 GMT
Rebels claim Russian setbacks

Russia's offensive on Grozny continued on Monday

Russian forces have been bombarding Chechen positions around the capital Grozny and in the southern mountains, with both sides claiming gains.

Battle for the Caucasus
The rebels said they had recaptured four villages near Grozny, while the Russian military said it had destroyed several rebel bases and killed a large number of enemy fighters in the south.

Rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said Chechen fighters had forced out federal troops from Alkhan-Kala, Alkhan-Yurt, Krasno-Partisansky and Kulary, south-west of the capital. If the gains are confirmed, it would be a significant reverse for Moscow.

Mr Udugov said fighting was continuing around Alkhan-Yurt and Kulary. He said up to 200 Russians had been killed, while only three rebels had died.

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For its part, Moscow said Russian air strikes had killed some 50 rebels and destroyed two rebel bunkers near Kharachoi, in the south, as they closed in on the nearby rebel stronghold of Vedeno.

A Russian combat operation on the outskirts of Shali on Monday

The Russian RIA news agency said 80 guerrillas had been killed in clashes around Vedeno - home base of rebel commander Shamil Basayev. It said three Russian soldiers had been killed.

The Russian military said that after fierce fighting on Sunday, it had been able to deploy artillery on heights around Vedeno and was shelling the town on Monday.

Both Russian and rebel sources reported fighting near the Argun Gorge.

Battle for Grozny

The two sides also claimed success in Grozny itself. Russian military headquarters said 35 rebels had died in recent fighting, while the Chechens said 50 Russian soldiers had been killed near Severny airport, north of the city, and 40 in the south-eastern neighbourhood of Oktyabrskaya.

Russian General Valentin Astaviyev said on state television that Russian forces had suffered only three dead in the past 24 hours.

But the commander of an interior ministry unit in Grozny told AFP news agency that that 50 men had been killed in the previous 48 hours.

"We are suffering heavy losses. The artillery is not giving us enough support," he said.

Military commanders say federal troops now hold 10% of the Chechen capital. Correspondents say the battle is not going smoothly and they remain a long way from taking the city centre.

On Monday a spokeswoman for a body representing the mothers of Russian soldiers told Ekho Moskvy radio that at least 1,000 federal troops had died and about 3,000 had been wounded during the military operation in Chechnya.

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See also:
01 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin thanks Russian troops
02 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Tories: Help Russia win in Chechnya
31 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechens hold firm in Grozny
31 Dec 99 |  Americas
US detects Russian missiles
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
02 Jan 00 |  Europe
Fears grow for Chechen civilians

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