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Monday, 6 December, 1999, 23:44 GMT
Ultimatum sparks Grozny exodus
Chechen women and children pass a Russian soldier Chechen refugees pass a Russian soldier near Grozny


By Andrew Harding in Moscow

The Russian ultimatum has triggered a new exodus of Chechen refugees.

Battle for the Caucasus
Tens of thousands are expected to flee their capital, Grozny, before Moscow's deadline expires on Saturday. Few can expect to see their homes again.

Russian forces have surrounded the city. They have been bombarding it steadily for weeks, but now they are preparing to unleash an unprecedented air and artillery offensive.

They aim to bomb Grozny off the map.

Moscow insists that by giving civilians a chance to escape, it is being humane, but critics argue that the old and the wounded are in no condition to flee.

International condemnation is louder now than ever before.

But the Russian army is in no mood to listen. It appears to have been given a free rein by the Kremlin to try to wipe out all the Chechen rebels.

Those rebels are now digging in in Grozny. Sooner or later they will probably be forced out but a long guerrilla war is sure to follow.

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
US warns Russia over Grozny threat
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

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