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'The BBC's Andrew Harding
"The Russian army is in no mood to listen"
 real 28k

Chechen representative Salih Brandt
''The only people who wil be affected by the bombardment will be innocent civilians''
 real 28k

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington
"Some of President Clinton's toughest comments yet"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 11:09 GMT
'Russia will pay for Chechnya'
Russian tank Russia is threatening a massive assault on Grozny

There has been strong international condemnation of Russia's threat to launch an all-out assault on the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Battle for the Caucasus
The United States, the European Union and human rights groups have all denounced the move.

On Monday, Russia gave civilians until Saturday to get out of Grozny or risk being killed in an all-out air and artillery bombardment.

US President Bill Clinton said Russia would "pay a heavy price" for its war in Chechnya, which he said would fuel anti-Russian feeling in the region and harm Moscow's standing abroad.

Russia's fight against terrorism is right, but the methods being used in Chechnya are wrong and I am convinced they are counter-productive
Bill Clinton
"There is a threat to the lives of the old, the infirm, the injured people and other innocent civilians who simply cannot leave or are too scared to leave their homes," Mr Clinton said.

"Russia will pay a heavy price for those actions, with each passing day sinking more deeply into a morass that will intensify extremism and diminish its own standing in the world.''

But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rebuffed the criticism saying there would be no talks with Grozny unless the militants released their hostages. Reports did not make clear which ''hostages'' he was referring to.

Elderly and wounded

Human rights groups said many of the remaining population in Grozny were elderly or wounded and in no condition to escape.

There will be no more talks. All those who do not leave the city will be destroyed. The countdown has started
Russian leaflet
A spokesman for the Halo Trust, which is distributing medical supplies to Grozny hospitals, said tens of thousands of civilians were still in the city which he described as an ''inferno''.

He said there were fears the Russians might use vacuum bombs which suck out the air from people's lungs, even if they are hiding in bunkers.

'Chilling threat'

Chechen government representative Salih Brandt said most of those left behind in Grozny were ''too old, too weak or too injured from previous bombardments'' to leave.

A crosses a checkpoint near Sleptsovskaya Refugees are still fleeing
''If the Russians are seriously expecting all these people to leave then they are going to be faced with television pictures of people being pushed out of Grozny on hospital beds,'' he added.

The EU also urged Russia to end what they called disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in Chechnya.

It said Brussels was considering not signing accords with Moscow in order to pressure Russia to end the bloodshed.

British foreign minister Robin Cook described Moscow's warnings as "chilling". He said the planned attack would endanger many innocent civilians and do nothing to solve Russia's long term security problems.

Security corridor

Leaflets dropped over Grozny by Russian warplanes on Monday warned that anyone remaining in the city after the deadline would be considered an enemy target and destroyed.

wounded Russian A wounded Russian gives a victory sign
"You are surrounded, all roads to Grozny are blocked. You have no chance of winning," the leaflets warned.

"The united troop command gives you a last chance. Until 11 December, 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.''

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

Moscow says it wants to wipe out separatist rebels in predominantly Muslim Chechnya.

A delegation from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which groups 50 Muslim countries, has left for the region in an attempt to avert the assualt.

Muslims are particularly worried that the promised offensive will coincide with the start of the Ramadan holy festival.


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

However, Russian military commanders say the city is almost entirely occupied by separatist fighters.

One senior military figure said there were no more than 1,000 civilians in Grozny - and they were being held as human shields.

Russian forces say they are now completing their blockade of Urus-Martan, to the south of the capital.

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

About 220,000 Chechens have fled their homes since the start of the Russian military operation, now in its 10th week
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See also:
07 Dec 99 |  Europe
Putin rebuffs Chechnya warnings
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's fighting tactics
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Ultimatum sparks Grozny exodus
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Leave or die, Chechens told
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'

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