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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Fighting in Chechnya intensifies
Russian troops
It may have been the summer's biggest battle

There has been fierce fighting between Russian soldiers and Chechen rebels in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, where the conflict has dragged on for almost two years.

The fighting appears to have been the biggest battle of the summer, with the Russians saying they killed up to 30 rebels and the Chechens claiming to have killed 40 Russians.

Map of Georgia showing Pankisi gorge
Despite Russia's earlier insistence that the conflict was all but over, Chechen rebels engaged Russian troops near the border with the neighbouring former Soviet state of Georgia.

At the same time, Georgia has accused Russia of sending combat aircraft to raid its territory, on the pretext of attacking Chechen rebels in the mountainous border region.

Russia has denied it, but accused Georgia of providing a base for what it terms "international terrorists", Chechen rebels and others hiding in the Pankisi Gorge, from which to attack Russian troops in Chechnya.

War threat

Georgia said the Russian attacks amounted to aggression against a neighbouring sovereign state.

The tension is escalating just as US Army officers in Georgia prepare to train Georgian troops to fight international terrorism.

Some leading politicians in Russia have warned that unless Georgia deals with the rebels, Russian troops will go into Georgia to deal with it themselves.

If Russia carries out that threat, it could lead to a new war in an already unstable region.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Tblisi has accused Russia of sending combat aircraft over Georgian territory"

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23 Jul 02 | Europe
30 Jul 02 | Europe
29 Nov 00 | Europe
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