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BBC's Andrew Harding reports
"Chechen fighters have promised to continue a long guerilla war"
 real 28k

BBC's Robert Parsons reports
"For the moment it looks as though the steam is beginning to run out of the Russian military offensive"
 real 28k

Andrew Harding
"Russian and Chechen officials are still giving wildly different versions of events"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 18:33 GMT
Russian army battered in Grozny

Wounded Russian soldier Scores of Russian troops have been wounded in recent fighting

The Russian army has acknowledged a sharp rise in troop casualties over the past week in its bid to capture the Chechen capital, Grozny.

The admission came as former President Boris Yeltsin predicted that the rebels would be defeated within two months.

Two more months and then we will plant our Russian flag in Chechnya
Boris Yeltsin

His remarks echoed earlier predictions by senior Russian generals that the campaign may be wrapped up in about three months.

Eighty-four Russian soldiers have been killed in Chechnya in the past 10 days and more than 180 others wounded in the battle for Grozny, the semi-official Interfax news agency said.

Six special interior ministry troops have died in the past day alone, the agency said, quoting Russian defence sources.

'Turning point'

The rare admission came a day after wounded Russian troops, evacuated from the Grozny area, spoke of fierce rebel resistance with probing counter-attacks.

They said one unit of 100 Russian special forces troops had almost been destroyed and lost most of its armour.

"The period of the Russian army's triumphant march through Chechnya is over, a turning point in the second war in Chechnya is about to occur," Chechen presidential administration chief Apti Batalov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

But the rebels in Grozny are reportedly short of ammunition.

Chechen fighters on Thursday abandoned the village of Alkhan-Kala, southwest of Grozny, which they seized from Russian forces earlier this week, witnesses said.

The rebels retreated to Grozny on orders from senior commanders, refugees fleeing the village said.

No ceasefire

A Russian commander in Chechnya, General Vladimir Shamanov, on Thursday ruled out any possibility of a ceasefire with the Chechen rebels.

I think no ceasefire of any kind must be declared
Gen Vladimir Shamanov

He said bad winter weather was hampering military operations and reducing visibility.

"The awful weather does not allow us to use all our resources," he said on Russian TV.

"At present we are mainly engaged in reconnoitring, protection and engineer reconnaissance. Visibility is often just 50-100m at the most."

Russian officials said a total of 544 soldiers had been killed and nearly 1,513 wounded since the offensive in Chechnya was launched more than four months ago.

But the military insisted it was tightening its grip on Grozny despite the heavy losses.

Southern stronghold

On Thursday, the armed forces said they had taken control of the central railway station in Grozny and prevented rebel attempts to break out of the city.

They also said federal troops had reached the outskirts of Vedeno, one of the rebels' last major strongholds in the mountains south of Grozny.

But a senior Russian officer said it could be weeks before troops moved into the town.

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See also:
07 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees return to Chechnya
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's fighting tactics
26 Dec 99 |  Europe
Opinion: A Chechen view of Russia's war
05 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russian soldiers admit Grozny losses
03 Jan 00 |  Europe
Rebels claim Russian setbacks
02 Jan 00 |  Europe
Fears grow for Chechen civilians

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