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The BBC's Mike Williams
"The stories told by those who have escaped from Grozny are tragic and brutal"
 real 28k

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports
"There is a new battle ground in Chechnya"
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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 18:40 GMT
Call for Grozny 'executions' probe

A Russian soldier guards suspected Chechen rebels A Russian soldier guards suspected Chechen rebels

The Council of Europe has called for an investigation into new allegations that Russian troops have executed civilians in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus
The allegations were contained in a report by the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, which said it had confirmed that 38 civilians had been executed in a district of the Chechen capital, Grozny - including nine members of one family.

A senior Russian commander, General Valery Manilov, rejected the accusations, saying there was no proof to back them up.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their attacks on rebels holding out in the mountains of southern Chechnya.

Soldier eating Many Russian soldiers will lbe going home
The Chairman of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Lord David Russell-Johnston, said the Human Rights Watch report was "alarming".

"Not only must these reports be investigated, the perpetrators must be brought to justice and the Russian authorities must take action to prevent such acts being committed," he said in a statement issued in Strasbourg.

Human Rights Watch posted a report on its website on Friday which said it had examined the mutilated corpses of three more executed Chechen civilians, bringing the total found in one district of Grozny to 41.

Eyewitness reports

The organisation is investigating a number of other reported cases.

Its report published on Thursday gives detailed accounts by eyewitnesses of the deliberate killing of individual civilians.

An elderly resident of Grozny carries a white flag for protection An elderly resident of Grozny carries a white flag for protection
They say some were shot at short range, while others were burned, or attacked with grenades.

Russian war planes have been continuing to pound rebel positions in the south of the republic, as Moscow prepares to send 50,000 troops into the mountains.

According to Russia's North Caucasus headquarters, Russian bombers and helicopter gunships have been carrying out hundreds of raids in the Argun and Vedeno gorges south of Grozny.

The Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov, has warned that his forces are beginning an all-out guerrilla war against the Russians.

But General Manilov, first deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, described Mr Maskhadov's threat as a bluff, and said the Chechens did not have the support of the Chechen people.

Troop cut

He said Russia was planning to cut its forces in Chechnya by nearly half.

Enough troops will remain to deal with the situation.
Valery Manilov, Russian Deputy Chief of Staff
"There will be about 50,000 troops left, and they will be mainly paratroops, marines and rapid reaction forces," General Manilov told ORT television.

"They will be people trained to fight in mountains," he said. "Enough troops will remain to deal with the situation."

Last week, Russian officials said the force in Chechnya numbered 93,000.

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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians move to the mountains
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
In pictures: Grozny in ruins
09 Feb 00 |  Europe
Missing Russian journalist surfaces in video
09 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia announces war's 'final stage'
07 Feb 00 |  Europe
New government for Chechnya
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Liberty journalist handed to Chechens
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Conflict not over yet
07 Feb 00 |  Europe
Putin: 'Grozny liberated'
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels 'set up mountain base'

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