Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 17:59 GMT
Grozny ground assault expected
Tightening the noose on Grozny
Intensive Russian attacks have been continuing on key positions in Chechnya.
Russian commanders say they are preparing for a ground assault on the capital, Grozny, after weeks of devastating air raids. Troops are reported to be gradually encircling the devastated city.
Reports say they carried out strikes to the south-west of Grozny, on the town of Bamut - where there was heavy fighting in the last Chechen war - and on the Argun Gorge, which the rebels are said to be using as a corridor into neighbouring Georgia.
The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, spent more than an hour briefing President Yeltsin on the crisis on Sunday.
The president is still resting at his Moscow residence after a recent vacation on the Black Sea coast.
Russia is expected to face further international criticism of its offensive in Chechnya when leaders of the European security organisation, the OSCE, gather for a summit in Istanbul.
Turning point in Chechnya
On Friday, the Russians moved into Chechnya's second-largest town, Gudermes.
"A fundamental change has taken place in the republic," Mr Putin said.
A senior Russian commander says the situation in Gudermes is now peaceful and that the rebels have been driven out.
A night-time curfew has been imposed, and local residents have been warned that anyone violating it will be shot on sight.
Refugees continue to flee
At the Chechen border, thousands of refugees are continuing to stream across into Ingushetia.
But the Russian government office in Chechnya issued a statement on Sunday, suggesting that estimates of refugee numbers were exaggerated.
A spokesman told the Itar-Tass news agency that official figures put the number of displaced persons at 212,000, with most of them having fled to Ingushetia.
But he said the local authorities could count only 12,000 people accommodated in eight tented camps.