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The BBC's Ben Brown
"Much of Grozny is in flames"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"The Russian tactics in Chechnya are becoming clear"
 real 28k

The BBC's Mike Williams
"Human rights workers are recording the horror stories told by refugees"
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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 04:28 GMT
New call for restraint in Chechnya
Helicopter gunships are scouring the countryside for signs of rebel activity

As refugees continue to flee the fighting in Chechnya, the leader of the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, has strongly backed Western calls for a negotiated peace.

Battle for the Caucasus
Interviewed by the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur, President Aushev said the conflict would become a ferocious, relentless war lasting a very long time, unless Russia negotiated with the Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov.

He blamed Moscow's refusal to do so on politicking ahead of Russian elections in December.

Russian forces are meanwhile continuing to advance on the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Rebel fighters believe they can defend Grozny
Moscow says it estimates that about 5,000 Chechen fighters have barricaded themselves in Grozny for a final defence of the city.

But most routes out have already been sealed off.

The Russian chief-of-staff, Anatoly Kvashnin, has said he expects the city to be surrounded by mid-December, and to surrender without bloodshed.

He said his troops would not try to storm the capital. He believed residents would urge the militants to withdraw, as they had in Chechnya's second city Gudermes, so that Russian troops could enter with little resistance.

A Moscow spokesman said troops were advancing towards Urus-Martan, a key rebel town that has held out against the Russian advance 15 km (10 miles) to the south.

Refugees fleeing the area said heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers could be heard near Urus-Martan, which sits on a key southern route that supplies Grozny with food, men and weapons.

Click here to see a map of the region

But there are reports that rebels are digging trenches on the outskirts of the town as they prepare to face the Russian attack.

Because of its strategic importance, Urus-Martan might become the first major centre where Russians face organised rebel resistance.

Excessive force

The humanitarian organisation, Human Rights Watch, says there is evidence that Russia has been using excessive force in its military offensive.

It said Russian attacks were often indiscriminate, with forces directing weapons at areas populated by civilians.

Independent confirmation of the accusations is impossible because of Moscow's ban on journalists travelling in Chechnya.

But a BBC correspondent in Ingushetia says the consistent testimony of many different people gives weight to the charges.

The gas is back on in Gudermes
Correspondents say the rebels admit they have so far been unable to effectively counter Russian tactics of shelling towns and villages from a distance before moving in.

But they believe their light weapons will be far more effective in the streets of Grozny.

Gudermes is now under Russian control. A BBC correspondent who visited the city on a trip organised by the Russian army said many of the buildings stood in ruins.

But he added that the gas supply had been restored, which will make a real difference during the coming months of hard winter.

The Russian Government has also said it has re-opened 65 schools and brought in 20 tonnes of medicines together with teams of doctors, as it re-establishes its control over the rebel republic.




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See also:
22 Nov 99 |  Europe
Conditions worsen for Chechen refugees
21 Nov 99 |  Europe
Grozny prepares for final assault
20 Nov 99 |  Europe
Chechnya: We will fight to the end
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: East-West relations must shift
19 Nov 99 |  Monitoring
Russia's media war over Chechnya
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Chechnya overshadows security accords

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