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The BBC's Ben Brown in Chechnya
"For Moscow, Russian casualties are mounting alarmingly fast"
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The BBC's Jim Fish
"Russian coffins could yet be laid at Mr Putin's door"
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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 01:15 GMT
Russia admits heavy casualties

Russian soldier Russian forces at the Chechen-Ingush border crossing

Russia has admitted that more than 1,100 of its soldiers have been killed in the six-month conflict in Chechnya, as heavy fighting continues in the battle for the capital, Grozny.

Battle for the Caucasus
Senior officials quoted by the Russian Interfax agency said 1,173 soldiers have been killed since fighting began in September - much higher than previous official counts.

The Russian military's daily casualty figures had seldom reached double-digits in the past months.

But independent sources, such as a soldiers' mothers organisation, said at least 3,000 servicemen had lost their lives.

And on Tuesday, Russians paid their last respects to the highest-ranking officer to die in the campaign.

Major-General Mikhail Malofeyev, killed in battle last week in Grozny, was buried with full military honours in the North Caucasus town of Vladikavkaz.

Rebel resistance

Fierce street fighting is continuing in Grozny, where bands of Chechen snipers have turned the bombed-out city into a death trap for the federal forces.

Click here for a map of Grozny

Correspondents say the Russians' attempts to seize the capital are painfully slow.

Initially confident of wresting control of the city from the rebels within days, military officials now expect the task to take another fortnight.

soldiers Russian soldiers pause on their way to the front
The Chechens have used their intimate knowledge of the city to outwit the Russian soldiers, staging attacks and then disappearing into sewers and bunkers.

The fighters have so far resisted the Russians' attempts to take the strategically important Minutka Square, and are reported to be holding the troops 400 metres away from the square.

Chechen sources said they had killed 430 Russians in Grozny in the past 24 hours. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

Slow progress

Meanwhile, federal forces launched a fresh assault against rebel positions in the southern mountains.

The Russians have been trying to dislodge rebels from woods in the lower Argun and Vedeno gorges for two weeks.

I think we will be here for a long time
Russian soldier Aleksey Nefedov
Russia's NTV reported that scouting groups were sent into the mountains for days at a time, to provide information on the location of rebel hideouts for artillery and air strikes.

One soldier told NTV that he saw no quick end to the fighting because the Chechens had split into small groups and melted into the mountains.

"They are all pretending to be civilians. So, I think we will be here for a long time," Aleksey Nefedov said.

And in Moscow, police stepped up security patrols, saying there had been new threats of revenge attacks by Chechen rebels.

Civilians fleeing

There has been a sharp upsurge in the number of refugees fleeing Chechnya to escape the fighting.

Refugee in railway carriage Many refugees live in railway carriages and basements
United Nations officials said nearly 10,000 people crossed into Ingushetia in the past four days, the biggest exodus for some time.

Our correspondent in Ingushetia said refugees from Grozny brought with them tales of horror. Some describe watching friends and relatives die beside them whilst trapped in cellars under constant Russian bombardment.

The UN said those who reached Ingushetia faced the threat of disease, especially tuberculosis.

At least 20,000 civilians were thought to be trapped in the city, many of them old and infirm and living in underground shelters.

A 70-year-old woman told Interfax that rocket attacks on Monday night had been "one of the most horrible since the war began".

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See also:
26 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russian troops' tales of war
24 Jan 00 |  Europe
EU freezes financial aid to Russia
23 Jan 00 |  Europe
In pictures: Chechen campaign
24 Jan 00 |  Europe
Chechens cling on to Grozny
21 Jan 00 |  Europe
Chechen refugees 'body searched'
18 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russians learn from past mistakes

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