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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Time is running out for Grozny"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 14:04 GMT
Leave or die, Chechens told
Russian howitzer Russian forces pound a rebel stronghold south-west of Grozny


The Russian military has given Chechens in the capital, Grozny, five days to leave the city or face an all-out assault.

Battle for the Caucasus
Leaflets dropped by Russian warplanes warn that anyone remaining in Grozny on Saturday will be considered an enemy target and destroyed.

Reports say troops are setting up a security corridor for citizens to leave the besieged city.

"You are surrounded, all roads to Grozny are blocked. You have no chance of winning," the leaflet warns.

wounded Russian A wounded Russian gives a victory sign
"The united troop command gives you a last chance. Until December 11, there will be a safety corridor through the village of Pervomaiskoye.

"Those who remain will be viewed as terrorists and bandits. They will be destroyed by artillery and aviation.

''There will be no more talks. All those who do not leave the city will be destroyed. The countdown has started," the leaflet added.

It said those who left Grozny would be offered housing, food, medicine, and ''most importantly, life''.

Chechen officials say that nearly 50,000 people are still in Grozny.

However Russia denies that figure, with military commanders saying the city is almost entirely occupied by separatist fighters.

Colonel-General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, was quoted saying there were no more than 1,000 civilians in Grozny - and they were being held as human shields.

Starvation

Russian troops have been closing in on Grozny and towns leading to the city in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russia's aim is to restore control over the entire region.

Moscow blames separatist rebels in the breakaway republic for incursions into Dagestan and for bomb attacks on Russian apartment blocks.

A crosses a checkpoint near Sleptsovskaya Refugees are still fleeing
About 220,000 Chechens have fled their homes since the start of the Russian military operation, now in its tenth week.

Russia's ultimatum came as human rights monitors warned that civilians trapped in the capital could starve to death.

Human Rights Watch said food supplies had almost run out as fierce fighting continued around the city.

"The situation has become very critical - they could starve in the next few days, in the next few weeks," said spokeswoman Marie Struthers.

"The food and humanitarian situation appears to be almost catastrophic. There appears to be next to no food in Grozny, almost no bread.

"Some accounts say people are being forced to walk four or five kilometres to get fresh running water."

Guerrilla war

Human Rights Watch also says those trying to flee the city are coming under constant fire.

Russian soldier Russian troops say they have surrounded Grozny
Russian warplanes and helicopter gunships carried out repeated attacks on Grozny and two nearby rebel strongholds, Argun and Urus-Martan, on Saturday and Sunday.

But it has emerged that they are running into increasingly heavy pockets of resistance.

The Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov has said his fighters now intend to draw the Russians into a guerrilla war in the mountains.

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See also:
05 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russia denies killings during Grozny assault
04 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russia 'seals off' Grozny
04 Dec 99 |  Europe
'Russians fired on refugees'
01 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechens 'using human shields'
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
How war came to a Chechen village
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's fighting tactics
28 Nov 99 |  Europe
Escape route for refugees
27 Nov 99 |  Europe
IMF warning to Moscow
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: East-West relations must shift

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